Workers must be willing to move interstate and overseas to where they are needed, according to key members of the Business Council of Australia.
The push is one of a suite of priorities to be outlined by BCA president Catherine Livingstone on Monday in her first major speech.
Ms Livingstone will also release a McKinsey report examining how the economy can transition from dependence on mining to health, agriculture and other areas.
Members of the BCA said the government must invest in infrastructure and housing to make less developed states more attractive to workers.
Companies should also pay incentives to encourage the labour force to move, they say.
“Our fly-in, fly-out concept is very unique to Australia and reflects our cultural mindset that we are just not willing to move for work,” KPMG chairman Peter Nash said. “In the United States you find a much more mobile workforce, and if you want more people to move, you have to build the infrastructure and housing to make it more appealing.”
Ernst & Young managing partner Rob McLeod suggested that bonuses should be linked to whether employees are willing to move. “Business needs to think about linking incentives to mobility: if you are not willing to move, you don’t get as many dollars,” he said.
“You also need to try harder to sell it to workers.”
A report published by the Productivity Commission last month recommends the government abolish stamp duty to increase the supply of housing and help alleviate unemployment, which has risen from 5.7 per cent to 6 per cent over the last year.
KPMG’s Mr Nash said innovation and technology could help alleviate the lack of workforce mobility.
“You don’t have to fly a driver from Sydney to Perth if you have a driverless truck,” he said, citing the use of drones to monitor crops as another example.
“It is much more efficient then doing it on the back of a motorcycle. But you wouldn’t want to blink or China will go past us.”
Science, technology, engineering, maths
Ms Livingstone will also highlight education, both to attract more international students and to encourage more local students to study science, technology, engineering and maths.
“We have been bemoaning the poor state of stem skills in schools and universities for over 15 years,” said Ms Livingstone, a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, and Telstra chairman. “If we are all agreed that this is an issue, why isn’t enough happening? There should be an intervention now.”
EY’s Mr McLeod added that “people have never seen education as a business, and that encompasses the government as well. Australia has an incredible competitive advantage which we have not been making the most of.”
BCA member and leading director Ziggy Switkowski said: “When asked, very few young Australians say that their career aspiration is to start their own business.
“Yet Australians are a creative and inventive people.
“We need to develop processes which encourage the continuous formation of smart small-to-medium enterprises.”
Despite criticism that the government has left a policy void across the innovation and technology sectors, Innovation Minister Ian Macfarlane said the government had established an investment and competitiveness taskforce which included the prime minister, the treasurer, the industry minister and the minister for trade and investment. “The taskforce is considering the full range of issues that impact on the global competitiveness of Australian businesses,” his spokesperson said.
The McKinsey report is the third in a series that expands their analysis to a broad range of industries including financial services, health, energy, agriculture and education.
The first McKinsey report, “Beyond the boom” was followed by “Extending the LNG boom”. The energy sector will continue to be a focus of this latest report.
“There is a short window of demand [for LNG] which might not exist in five to 10 years’ time,” the consulting firm have warned.
A Senate inquiry into innovation will receive submissions this week, including a joint submission from the BCA and Deloitte Access Economics urging urgent policy action. T
The Australian Institute of Company Directors will launch their campaign for law reform to encourage greater risk-taking and innovation by boards.
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