A YEAR IN REVIEW 2015–16
Who we are
The Business Council is a forum for the chief executives of Australia’s largest companies to promote economic growth and social progress in the national interest.
Our member companies employ one in every 10 Australian workers. They connect Australia with the global economy, cutting edge innovation and opportunities to create business models, jobs, skills and services that will shore up living standards and keep our country strong.
ACHIEVEMENTS – DIRECTORS’ PERSPECTIVE
When I recall the BCA’s work over the past year I return time and again to a single thought: courage. The council and its members have been resolute in putting the case for reforms and behaviours that are fundamentally good for the prosperity and wellbeing of people, communities and business. It is said that national public policy advocacy is a contact sport – the BCA has first-hand experience of just how tough it can be. I’m proud the BCA has, for all the knocks, had the courage required to do the right thing. And I believe the reputation of business more broadly is the better for it. We’ve much left to do, but I look forward to 2017.Catherine Tanna Managing Director
Community distrust of big business has intensified globally and locally over the past 12 months and particularly during our recent Federal elections. There are important lessons for us to heed, particularly the need for businesses to be more open, to respond faster to community concerns and to do a better job of communicating. The truth is that we can only sustain a fairer, more prosperous society with a growing economy. The BCA has sought to be a balanced and consistent advocate for policy settings which will encourage growth. Around the world we are seeing anti-business sentiment turn into actions which will curb growth. The BCA’s leadership role has never been more important to ensure that our country avoids populist decision-making and continues to be the best country in which to live, work and learn.Alison Watkins Group Managing Director
Coca-Cola Amatil Limited
Over the past year, under the tireless leadership of Catherine and Jennifer, and through the work of their committed team, the BCA has helped shape important debates on public spending, tax, investment, innovation, and workforce skills. We have highlighted the need for strong long-term policy, so Australia can continue successfully its economic transition from the peak of the mining boom to a more diversified future. Business must remain actively engaged in these debates. We must continue to argue courageously, based on sound facts, and with compassion, emphasising business’s indispensable role in creating jobs and economic growth.Ian Narev Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer
The BCA has worked to make sure business has a clear voice on public policy debates where it can be difficult to be heard. There’s an unfortunate tendency to assume anything good for corporations must therefore be bad for the community, and the BCA has an important role in countering that. I’ve especially appreciated their efforts to get beyond a simplistic argument on tax reform by talking about the benefits the economy-wide benefits of investment, jobs and growth.Alan Joyce Chief Executive Officer
Under the outstanding leadership of Catherine Livingstone and Jennifer Westacott, the BCA in 2016 has strengthened its role as the pre-eminent research and advocacy group for business in Australia. Well thought through and researched policy submissions are supported with a strong sense of what is in the community interest, so that BCA policies are promoted which would benefit society in Australia. The BCA continues to take a long term, apolitical perspective on what the appropriate economic policies are to build sustainable wealth in Australia. The membership is strongly aligned with these policies.Richard-Goyder Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer
President named The Australian Financial Review’s Business Person of the Year
The Australian Financial Review named Catherine Livingstone ‘The AFR Business Person of the Year’ for 2015.
“Catherine Livingstone is The Australian Financial Review’s business person of the year for 2015 in recognition of her central role in calling out political failure in Canberra and pushing the federal government to adopt the innovation and disruption agenda now being taken up by a new Prime Minister”Editorial,
The Australian Financial Review, front page, 18 December 2015.
Chief Executive’s speech at the Australian Davos Connection Education Summit
Before a major audience comprising educators and business and policy leaders, the Chief Executive described her long-term vision for the future of education in Australia and made recommendations about what needs to change to position our education systems to deliver high-quality education to all Australians.
“Ms Westacott delivered an ‘impassioned and powerful speech; pointing to an excess of politics in education policy over recent years and a heartfelt hope for a more evidence-informed and thoughtful future”online editorial in The Australian,
12 August 2016.
Chief Executive featured in CEO Magazine
CEO Magazine, the magazine for high-level executives, featured a major profile on Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott in its Executive Interviews section.
“The resilient CEO is an inspiration to women in business and an optimist when it comes to Australian companies thriving in today’s business environment.”CEO Magazine, February 2016
Advocacy in support of a better tax system for all Australians
Long-standing advocacy for a better tax system for all Australians led to the federal government including a 10-year plan for lower business and personal taxes in its 2016-2017 Budget, and adopting a phased approach to comprehensive tax reform consistent with our plan. Catherine Livingstone.
“…The Business Council of Australia has presented a new plan for tax reform – and argued for it in the kind of language that the public should hear from the Prime Minister”Alan Mitchell,
The Australian Financial Review, 8 March 2016.
Business Council and members in the community
In the third year of our partnership with Supply Nation, the peak body supporting the growth of the Indigenous business sector, Jennifer Westacott delivered the keynote at our partner’s annual conference. The speech called for the adoption of a policy approach that reflects the strengths of Indigenous innovation and entrepreneurialism, and takes an investment approach to addressing the challenges of Indigenous economic disadvantage. The growing success of this partnership is a key part of our community and diversity agenda.
“On behalf of Supply Nation I wish to congratulate you on your powerful keynote address at the opening of Supply Nation Connect Conference. Your remarks were right on point and inspiring. Thanks for your leadership and support of Supply Nation, we are excited to be a partner with the Business Council of Australia.”Leah Armstrong,
Chair, Supply Nation
A new resource, Being Work Ready:
A Guide to What Employers Want
With ongoing concern among business that many young people seeking employment are not sufficiently equipped for today’s workforce we developed a work readiness guide as a tool for teachers, career counsellors and students. The guide clearly defines what work readiness means to business and who is responsible for student work readiness, and has been welcomed by the school sector as a valuable contribution to developing our young people.
“I just wanted to thank the Business Council for the excellent publication: Being Work Ready. We run an Industry Experience program here for year 11 which focuses on employability skills and work readiness. This brochure is exactly what we needed - especially the responsibilities, and the inclusion of behaviours and skills.”Meredith Melville-Jones,
Director, Bradfield Senior College:
Business Council annual dinner
The Business Council’s annual dinner, held in November, is the premier event of its kind in Australia bringing together leaders from business, government, unions and the community and featuring a keynote address by the Prime Minister.
Launching the government’s Cyber Security Strategy
Cyber security has been a key area of focus over the last year. At the request of the Prime Minister, Jennifer Westacott participated in the Expert Panel for the Government’s Cyber Security Strategy and introduced Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the launch in April. Jennifer also authored a chapter in the Palo Alto publication Navigating the Digital Age, and spoke at a number of cyber security events including the launch of the publication, SINET61 and a members seminar in October.
Leading on the global stage
We continued our leadership on global engagement during the year, with highlights including co-hosting a roundtable with US Vice President Joe Biden in July, the Australia-China CEO roundtable in April and hosting a delegation of French dignitaries in March. The Global Engagement Taskforce and Japan Leaders Dialogue continue to progress a substantive agenda.
Garma 2016 Key Forum
This year, on the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, the Business Council hosted its second business leader’s delegation to the Garma Festival in North East Arnhem Land, in partnership with Jawun.
Before 50 business and indigenous community leaders including Business Council members Jennifer Westacott helped lead important discussions about the role of the private sector in stimulating Indigenous economies. She chaired a key forum panel with representatives from Westpac, Perpetual and KPMG to share insights on what’s working in business-Indigenous engagement, and gave these opening remarks.
Crawford Australian Leadership Forum
We continue to partner with other organisations to encourage thought leadership from domestic and global experts on pressing policy issues. The Crawford Australian Leadership Forum, in conjunction with the Australian National University and The Australian Financial Review, brought together thought leaders from around the world and included Jennifer Westacott, who made opening remarks, and a number of Business Council members.
How we have impacted national developments
- The Business Council's tax paper was released in March 2016, showing a way forward on comprehensive reform after the GST was taken off the table.
- The government's 10-year plan for lower business and personal taxes released in the 2016-17 Budget is well aligned with the tax paper.
Innovation and STEM
- The Business Council – particularly Catherine Livingstone – have been instrumental in putting innovation and STEM on the national agenda.
- This has resulted in changes to the school curriculum to better prepare students with STEM skills, and bipartisan support for a national STEM strategy.
- The Business Council has consistently put forward credible recommendations for the Federal Budget, including the need for a careful and staged return to surplus. The same views have been put forward by ratings agencies recently.
- The government’s fiscal strategy is consistent with the Business Council’s recommendations, and the need for a staged return to surplus has bipartisan support.
Education & Skills
- The Business Council continued to raise the profile of pressing concerns in the education and tertiary systems, through major speeches [Australian Davos Connection (August 2016), and the AFR Workforce and Productivity Summit (December 2015).
- In particular, the Business Council has turned attention on the vocational education and training system, and put forward suggestions for reform of the sector, influencing the recent redesign of VET FEE-HELP.
- The Business Council has been a consistent supporter of freer trade, and ran a large-scale campaign in support of the China Free Trade Agreement (ChaFTA) in late 2015.
- Both major parties agreed to ratify ChaFTA in October 2015.
- The Business Council has also convened major summits with leaders in the public and privates sectors in Australia and China, and Australia and Japan.
- The Business Council has consistently called for the policy settings that enable the provision of sufficient infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing population.
- In particular, the Business Council has successfully argued to maintain the independence of Infrastructure Australia, and to streamline the process for environmental assessments and reduce duplication between the Commonwealth, and state and territory governments.
- The Chief Executive was a member of the Expert Panel on the Cyber Security Strategy, and was asked to assist the Prime Minister in launching the strategy in April 2016.
- The strategy acknowledges and reflects the strong work already done by business to encourage cybersecurity.
- The Business Council’s contribution to the workplace relations debate has been a fresh, constructive approach. It rises above the ideological issues of the past, to offer suggestions to fit the workplace system to the changed preferences of workers and consumers.
- Key recommendations of the Business Council, including reform of greenfield agreements, have been adopted by the Productivity Commission.
- The Business Council has also been a key driver for the reinstatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
- The Business Council has led corporate Australia’s efforts on indigenous engagement, including participation in the annual Garma event, and partnerships with Supply Nation and Purple House.
- Business Council members now have an indigenous workforce of around 17,000 people, and contracts with indigenous suppliers worth $1.7 billion.
Climate change and energy
- Our submissions and advocacy to policy makers have supported consideration of a suite of measures, built from the existing regulatory frameworks, that could pave the way for a national, scalable and durable policy framework.
- We have also highlighted strongly to policy makers the role that gas will play in managing Australia’s transition away from emissions intensive generation.