Letters to the Premier

Date: 27 November 2016

Re: It’s time to get WA back to work

We refer to the disturbing headline article in yesterday’s edition in The Weekend West newspaper ‘It’s time to get WA back to work’ (copied below). The article opens with what for small business is a sad indictment on the WA Government: One of WA’s most successful businessmen has blamed the State’s disastrous unemployment rate on the Government’s decade-long “sole focus” on mining.” And further on: The State played to that (mining) so aggressively, it was the only thing that the government focused on for a decade in this place,

For many years our organisation has held the view that the WA Government is a government for the “big end of town”, principally of the resources sector. Whilst that is understandable to some extent, given the amount of royalties and taxes they have paid to the state’s coffers. However, in our judgement, that should not have been at the expense of small business.

At election times governments of all political persuasions are all too ready to declare small business as “the engine room of the economy.” Sadly, in the case of WA the experience demonstrates that statement has a very hollow ring to it.

While the “successful businessmen” referred to in the article did not address the situation concerning small business, which suffers the “knock on” effect. For our part we would strongly suggest that the Government should refocus its attention to the plight of small business in this State.

Yours faithfully

Combined Small Business Alliance of Western Australia Inc. (CoSBA)

cc: Deputy Premier, Hon Lisa Harvey; Treasurer, Treasurer, Hon Mike Nahan; Minister for Commerce, Hon Michael Mischin; Minister for Small Business, Hon Sean L’Estrange.

It’s time to get WA back to work

The West Australian, November 26, 2016:

One of WA’s most successful businessmen has blamed the State’s disastrous unemployment rate on the Government’s decade-long “sole focus” on mining.

The State’s biggest home builder Dale Alcock made the complaint afterThe Weekend West asked five titans of WA business how to get West Australians back to work amid the worst jobs crisis in 25 years.

WA has 91,000 people looking for work. About 49,000 full-time jobs were shed in the past year, giving the State the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 6.5 per cent.

Mr Alcock, miners Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart, Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder and car sales kingpin John Hughes — who together collectively employ more than 300,000 people — all called for less red tape, tax and regulation to stimulate business and employment.

Mr Forrest said training providers were churning out qualifications industry did not need and should only get paid once graduates secured work for six months.

Andrew Forrest said training providers were churning out qualifications industry did not need.

He also argued passionately for a full roll-out of his Healthy Welfare Card now under trial.

Mrs Rinehart said business could better afford to hire some of the 700,000 unemployed Australians if it did not have to spend an estimated $176 billion a year complying with red tape.

Mr Goyder said Wesfarmers, Australia’s biggest private employer with 200,000 workers, would immediately employ hundreds more staff at Coles and Bunnings if WA trading restrictions were relaxed to add nine extra shopping hours a week.

Mr Hughes called for a two to three-year payroll tax holiday for new small businesses.

He warned that jobseekers were letting themselves down by their declining standards of presentation and attitude, as well as impersonal online job applications.

While the business leaders had varying views on the forseeability of the unemployment spike, Mr Alcock was firm in his belief that the economy should have been broadened to take over from mining when it declined.

“The State played to that (mining) so aggressively, it was the only thing that the government focused on for a decade in this place,” he said.

“There was a period there — a long period — where our industry could not get in front of government.”

Mr Alcock said Rio Tinto shedding 500 jobs before Christmas would harm consumer confidence and suggested the resource sector was too quick to sack workers.

“Mining companies, you might say rightly, become focused on lowest cost production per tonne,” he said.

“I get that but it’s almost an obsession.”

John Hughes called for a two to three-year payroll tax holiday for new small businesses.

Mr Alcock said it was reasonable to debate the merits of the WA Nationals’ proposal to increase the iron ore royalty on Rio and BHP Billiton from 25¢ to $5 a tonne. He said WA’s politicians had proved terrible at extracting GST and Commonwealth infrastructure funding to boost employment despite strong representation in Canberra.

“Every time you go to Melbourne, there’s a new ring-road, new connection, something,” Mr Alcock said. “Victoria and NSW are all over it.”

He described recent liquor approval for Fremantle’s Bathers beach as a “sensational” but overdue innovation to boost tourism.

Premier Colin Barnett denied the Government had failed to broaden the economy but conceded mining had “crowded out” other industries competing for labour.

COMMENT: If ever there was any doubt that the “successful businessmen”, referred to in the article above, believes the Barnett government is focused on the big end of town at the expense of small business, consider the adamant statement by the Premier published in The Echo newspaper of 25.11.16, which reported, in part:

The Premier’s visit packed out the Swan Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast in Midland on Monday [21.11.16] where he said he would continue to fight hard on the GST issue, and hoped to be able to give some concession in land tax.

But, he added, in the meantime the business community would still need to stump up payroll tax. “There wouldn’t be a person here who didn’t want to see payroll tax reduced let alone abolished because it’s a tax on jobs and small business but that’s realistically not going to happen.”

Date: 2 December 2016

Re: PENALTY RATES

We refer to an article published in today’s edition of The West Australian newspaper under the heading ‘Penalty rates in Barnett’s sights to boost jobs ’ (copied below), in which it is reported:

One option open to a re-elected Barnett Government would be to require the WA Industrial Relations Commission to review State awards. They include the shop and warehouse award, hotel and tavern workers award and restaurant, tearoom and catering workers award.”

Firstly, we would wish to commend you on your promised initiative, however we are also reminded that same promise was made when you were elected to Government in 2008.

Since then there has been the Spurling Review of the State Industrial Relations System – August 2009; the Amendola Review of the WA Industrial Relations system – 2008/2009; the WA Government proposed response to the Amendola Review April/May 2009; and, The Labour Relations Legislation Amendment and Repeal Bill 2012 to amend the Industrial Relations Act 1979.

We note that it is reported: “One option open to a re-elected Barnett Government would be to require the WA Industrial Relations Commission to review State awards.” However, given your track record small business can only be very sceptical of your promises regarding the State’s industrial relations system, in this case “to review State awards.

Yours faithfully

Combined Small Business Alliance of Western Australia Inc. (CoSBA)

cc: Minister for Commerce, Hon Michael Mischin; Minister for Small Business, Hon Sean L’Estrange

Penalty rates in Barnett’s sights to boost jobs

The West Australian, November 30, 2016

Colin Barnett has vowed to clamp down on penalty rates to boost hospitality, tourism and retail jobs in a major electoral point of difference with Mark McGowan’s Labor.

Colin Barnett has vowed to clamp down on penalty rates to boost hospitality, tourism and retail jobs in a major electoral point of difference with Mark McGowan’s Labor.

The Premier said it was not fair that hundreds of WA small businesses had to pay double and sometimes triple-time wages on Sundays and public holidays when most big business chains had traded away penalty rates in deals with unions.

While the Federal Government has industrial relations jurisdiction over most mid-to-large businesses, the State retains coverage of small and micro-businesses that provide an estimated 11 to 16 per cent of the private sector workforce.

In an exclusive interview with The West Australian , Mr Barnett said he agreed workers should get more on Sunday and public holidays, but only the time-and-a-half wages generally applied on Saturdays — not double or triple time.

“You are not going to get the growth in tourism and hospitality if people are required to pay up to three times the hourly rate on a Sunday, and Labor will not even entertain a reform of penalty rates,” he said.

“It’s primarily under the Federal Government but we can look at special (State) awards being created, which we will do. It’s a major point of difference.”

More than 150,000 West Australians are estimated to work in retail and about 36 per cent of retail businesses fall within State industrial relations jurisdiction.

One option open to a re-elected Barnett Government would be to require the WA Industrial Relations Commission to review State awards.

They include the shop and warehouse award, hotel and tavern workers award and restaurant, tea room and catering workers award.

Mr McGowan said he was not considering any change to penalty rates and cutting them was not the solution to improving WA’s 6.5 per cent unemployment rate — the worst in the country.

“Hard-working West Australians deserve a fair pay for a hard day’s work and in fact, by having more money in their pockets, it means more money can be spent locally and stimulate different sections of our economy,” Mr McGowan said.

The political leaders made the remarks while outlining the jobs policies committed to ahead of the March election campaign, which is set to feature unemployment as a major battleground.

Brendon Grylls repeated his claim the Nationals were the new party of small business with their plan to fund payroll tax cuts for 10,000 businesses though a production rental fee increase on iron ore miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

The West Australian asked the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Unions WA, Australian Steel Institute, Tourism Council, Chamber of Minerals and Energy and WA Farmers to rate the policies’ potential to create jobs.

Mr McGowan’s “plan for jobs” drew praise from Australian Steel Institute WA manager James England, Unions WA secretary Meredith Hammat and CCI chief executive Deidre Willmott for its focus on local content and diversifying the economy.

Ms Willmott urged the Liberals to follow through on their proposed privatisation of Western Power, a measure vehemently opposed by Ms Hammat.

Tourism Council chief executive Evan Hall said a $98 million annual commitment would create 4100 jobs. Labor is offering $86 million a year for five years while the Liberals have yet to outline a total commitment beyond $47 million “additional” marketing funds over four years.

While Ms Willmott supported Mr Grylls highlighting the payroll tax burden, she said his mining tax was not the way to fund it. This was echoed by CME boss Reg Howard-Smith, who said the policy couldn’t pay for it. “The WA Nationals policy document says the payroll tax relief will cost $440 million a year while Deloitte Access Economics shows WA will receive less than $300 million a year from the $2.3 billion raised by the tax,” he said.

WA Farmers chief executive Stephen Brown said Labor’s stance against genetically modified crops would harm jobs and market opportunities.

Mr England said Labor appeared “willing to break from established economic dogma” with its commitment to getting locals a bigger slice of construction and fabrication contracts.