Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Labor doesn't understand us, business leaders lament. Company directors say relationship is at new low.

By Business editor Peter Ryan

The Government's already strained relationship with the business community has hit a new low according to a survey of company directors.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors polled more than 500 business leaders and only 8 per cent said they thought the Federal Government understood business.

The Institute's "Director Sentiment Index" points to the mining tax, the carbon tax and the National Broadband Network as examples where companies say poor process and a lack of consultation damaged the business relationship.

"In the old days perhaps - and this might be looking through rose coloured glasses - but we used to have say a green paper which said, 'here's an issue which needs to be discussed and thought about', and then you'd go to a white paper and you'd say well look, 'here's some options how you can deal with this issue', and then you'd go to legislation and then you'd have in-detail legislation and discussions about that, and you end up with a pretty good result," said the Institute's chief executive John Colvin.

"I guess the concern of the directors is that that type of good process hasn't been applied to so many issues - including legislation coming unannounced - without proper analysis of whether this is good legislation, whether it's good regulation, and then surprises."

Mr Colvin says the survey outcome reflects the business reaction Labor Government since it came to power in 2007.

"The figures speak for themselves, 80 per cent of the directors think that our Government doesn't understand business," he said.

"I think that it's really the cumulative effect of the way in which directors and business have been treated over, you know, the long period of time.

The Opposition comes out better in the survey, but still only half of those surveyed believe the Coalition has a good understanding of business needs.

John Colvin says that should send a message to both major parties to consult more widely with business before announcing policies.

"It's a warning that business and the director communities can't be taken for granted, can't have laws just changed willy-nilly, can't have sectional interests running policy, and must have really good processes and really good policy discussions before moving in big directions. It's that synergy which is so critical," he concluded.

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