PM's business adviser warns on growth
Tony Abbott's pick as the head of his Business Advisory Council says Australia faces a collapse in the growth of national income so severe it will feel "like hitting a brick wall".
Maurice Newman was until 2012 chairman of the ABC and is a former chairman of the Australian Stock Exchange.
Addressing the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia in Sydney on Monday night, he spoke of losing his "political virginity" by throwing his lot in with the Coalition after years having "voted for and worked for both sides".
"Openly declaring support for one side before an election shows clearly where your sympathy lies," he said. "However having watched five long years of reckless spending, economic waste, class warfare particularly aimed at business and the mindless destruction of Australia's international competitiveness, I thought I had a civic duty to stand up."
"I have seen and heard nothing since the election to question that judgment," he said. "Indeed I am shocked that so much economic damage can be inflicted in just six years."
"Labor's commitments to its 'better schools' plan and the national disability insurance scheme were made in the clear knowledge of a budget already under serious and continuing pressure."
Mr Newman said growth in real gross national income was about to collapse. "Having become accustomed to better than 2 per cent annual growth for 22 consecutive years, we are now facing the prospect of growth with a zero in front of it. That will feel like hitting a brick wall," he said.
Australia could no longer afford corporate welfare in the form of support to the car industry and ailing food processors. "Giving taxpayer subsidies to ailing companies has proved to be like giving aspirin to the terminally ill. It temporarily relieves the pain but does nothing to combat the underlying disease of being uncompetitive."
But Australia should consider relaxing competition laws in order to allow Australian companies to "acquire the necessary critical mass" to become national champions winning business abroad.
Industrial relations should be reformed, even if the idea brings forth "screams of outrage and the spectre of WorkChoices".
"We cannot hide from the fact that Australian wage rates are very high by international standards, and our system is dogged by rigidities," he said.
Mr Newman said he was speaking in a personal capacity.
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