Date posted: 27/05/2022

2022 Australian Federal Election

CA ANZ outlines its policy priorities for the next Federal Government ahead of the election on 21 May

In brief

  • The Australian economic outlook remains strong but significant risks and uncertainties remain
  • Bold reforms and well-designed policies will be required to address complex structural challenges
  • Our policy priorities focus on fair, sustainable growth and increasing business and consumer confidence

The Australian economy has proved highly resilient throughout the pandemic and the economic outlook remains strong. However, significant domestic and global risks and uncertainties remain.

Whichever party forms government after the Australian Federal Election on 21 May faces complex structural challenges that will require bold and well-designed policy reforms.

Rising interest rates compounded by soaring inflation and the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine have dented business and investor confidence and further disrupted supply chains. 

The incoming government will also confront sluggish wage growth, declining productivity, more than $1 trillion in debt, a multi-billion-dollar debt interest bill and at least a decade of budget deficits which threaten to leave the economy vulnerable and unfairly burden future generations.

Good public policy improves the lives of Australians, ensures fair, long-term sustainable growth and intergenerational equity, provides certainty and confidence for business and consumers, and creates long-term prosperity and wellbeing.

CA ANZ has set out below our policy priorities for the next Federal Government. 

1. Address the challenge of tax reform to ensure Australia has an efficient, fair and sustainable tax system for the future

Chief among our concerns is the urgency at which tax reform needs to be addressed and for public engagement and debate on this issue to start sooner rather than later.

Tough decisions will need to be made to ensure that Australia has a more efficient, fair and sustainable tax system which is capable of supporting the provision of critical public services such as health, education and aged care.

All sides of politics could consider committing to another tax reform review covering a range of topics such as increasing the rate and base of the GST including compensation for low-income Australians, capital gains tax, whether current tax concessions remain fit-for-purpose, and Commonwealth-State relationships, roles, responsibilities and funding.

2. Replace the annual superannuation contribution cap with a lifetime cap to simplify the superannuation system and make the system fairer for people with broken work patterns

The annual assessment process is complicated, costly to administer and based on false assumptions. It incorrectly presupposes that every superannuation investor will make contributions at a constant rate throughout their working life.

This has a negative impact for people with broken work patterns, particularly women who typically take more breaks from paid work to raise children or care for their family.

Replacing the annual superannuation cap with a lifetime cap will make the superannuation system fairer and more financially secure for people with broken work patterns, by allowing them to top up their super later in their working lives when they are able to do so. This measure will also simplify the superannuation system and reduce compliance and administration costs for consumers and super funds.

3. Reform the regulatory framework for licensed financial advisers

There is a continuing need for trusted advisers to look after the financial advice needs of everyday Australians. However, licensed financial advisers are finding the costs of compliance increasingly onerous.  As a result, many are looking to exit the industry at a time when the government is trying to increase the industry’s level of qualification and professionalism.

CA ANZ urges the next government to streamline regulation of financial advisers and provide regulatory relief for accountants so that Australians can continue to access quality, affordable advice.

4. Prioritise the task of budget repair

Since the start of the pandemic, Australia has recorded its three largest budget deficits in history. Our nation has experienced one of the largest budget deteriorations in the developed world and one of the biggest increases in debt. The International Monetary Fund has warned that Australia’s fiscal repair must start soon.

The next Federal Government should prioritise the task of budget repair. Failure to do so will significantly impact intergenerational equity.

Moving the budget back towards balance will provide a buffer for inevitable future economic downturns and help the RBA fight inflation.

5. Introduce additional natural disaster and pandemic relief, recovery and preparedness measures to assist small businesses

Businesses impacted by the pandemic and natural disasters have had to deal with multiple tiers of government and complex, constantly changing rules to access financial assistance. 

The next Federal Government should work with the states and territories to simplify, streamline and centralise assistance measures. We support establishing a single point of access to obtain assistance and connect with local service providers, and government departments and agencies.

Providing standard conditions and administration requirements for support, regardless of where a business is located, will also help ease compliance burdens and enable faster delivery of assistance.

6. Prioritise measures to increase women’s workforce participation 

Increasing the participation of women in the paid workforce will help address Australia’s critical skills shortages and rising cost-of-living pressures.

Potential benefits of lifting women’s workforce participation also include additional financial security for women and families by way of higher lifetime earnings and increased retirement savings. 

Key structural factors that contribute to the low rate of paid work undertaken by women in Australia and need to be addressed include low wages in female dominated industries, the high cost of childcare and inadequate paid parental leave.

Women’s paid workforce participation can be increased by closing the gender pay gap, expanding access to paid parental leave, and making quality early childhood education and childcare more accessible and affordable. 

CA ANZ also calls on the next government to improve the gender and ethnicity balance at all levels in the Federal Parliament.

7. Increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s workforce participation in cooperation with the State and Territory Governments

The incoming Federal Government can increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s participation in the paid workforce in cooperation with the State and Territory Governments by:

  • closing the gap on employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples communities through committing to make significant progress towards achieving the National Closing the Gap target
  • examining and addressing the reasons Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples may be discouraged from seeking employment, such as the impact of wage payments on access to other existing government payments, support and housing assistance programs
  • providing full wage subsidies to eligible employers who provide jobs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in areas of high unemployment, particularly regional and remote locations, commencing at the start of employment, for a minimum of two years
  • designing a streamlined and centralised pre-employment program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and employers to help overcome barriers to entry into employment, including grants and rebates for tailored initiatives to support young people, adults and different community needs, mentoring, employability skills training, apprenticeships and traineeships, and
  • providing business support grants to set up remote offices and improve digital connectivity to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in remote communities to work in or near their communities or on Country. 

CA ANZ also supports the next government working with Australia’s largest 200 employers on mandatory public reporting of the proportion of First Nations employees. This should include improving access to training, apprenticeships and employment support to encourage job creation for unemployed First Nation’s peoples rather than recruitment from the existing labour market.

8. Set a clear pathway for Australia’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050

Setting a clear pathway for Australia’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 will provide some certainty for business and encourage investment in low-emissions technology and innovation. Active engagement and consultation with all stakeholders will be critical because the costs of the transition will not fall evenly across communities and sectors.

9. Undertake a review and assessment of existing business and professional services levies 

The next government should review and assess existing business and professional services levies to determine if they are still appropriate and reflective of the changed economy and digitisation of interactions with government. 

The review should investigate the flexibility of the ASIC Industry Funding Model (IFM) to freeze cost recovery in times of economic stress. 

ASIC company search fees should also be reviewed. We propose that there should be no fee to extract basic company registration information. Currently an online price of $17 is charged for a current and historical company extract which is required by all parties undertaking due diligence on a company.

10.   Increase funding for the current initiative to make legislation ‘technology neutral’

Funding for the current initiative to make legislation ‘technology neutral’ should be increased in the next term of government. This will enable audits to be undertaken of each agency to detect and replace paper-based interactions and record keeping requirements. Examples include:

  • ASIC currently requires ASIC registered agents and digital services providers to obtain an original ‘wet’ signature on Form 362 Notification by a company to nominate or cease a registered agent or contact address and retain the original signed form for no less than seven years.
  • Section 18(3) of the SIS Act requires the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority to be informed of an election by written notice that is (a) in an approved form and (b) signed by the trustee. It is not clear whether this notice can be carried out or signed electronically. 
  • Section 75-10 of the Insolvency Practice Rules (Corporations) 2016 requires that “the convener of a meeting must give notice in writing of the meeting to as many of the persons appearing on the company’s books”. Section 75-95 requires “if necessary, an external administrator must ask a creditor to give evidence in writing in relation to a debt claimed by the creditor to establish the liability of the company for the debt”.

11.  Achieve a best practice corporate reporting framework

The next government should initiate discussions regarding how the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) standards will be best incorporated into Australia’s corporate reporting framework. If necessary, policy and legislation should be developed accordingly, including the establishment of an Australian Sustainability Standards Board, ensuring that all institutions involved in Australian corporate reporting are well prepared for future changes.

Through the Australian Council of Financial Regulators and engagement with industry, the next government will need to determine whether climate-related disclosures in line with the Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) should be mandated within Australia and if so, for which entities.

Addressing the inconsistency and fragmentation of reporting requirements across national and state legislation by developing a plan will help to achieve a simpler national legislative financial reporting and auditing framework. 

12. Anti-money laundering

Prior to professional accountants, or their services, being captured under the anti-money-laundering regime, the incoming government should undertake a cost-benefit analysis, and initiate and engage in discussions with industry and professional bodies.

13. Consumer Data Right

The next government should pause the roll out of the Consumer Data Right to new sectors and redirect the focus of government efforts to educate consumers of its availability in the sectors already designated.  This should be followed up with a detailed analysis of what data is being disclosed and if it is readable, and of value, to recipients of the data.

The incoming government should undertake a review of the cost of becoming a data holder, assessing if the perceived risks warrant the cost, the impact on the viability of small data holders, and the impact on competition if small data holders were to exit the market.

An analysis should be undertaken in a designated sector of the cost impact on all participants of subsequent, and continuous, changes to the rules forcing changes in the infrastructure.

The government should also undertake a feasibility study into setting up a government data holder platform that smaller providers could participate in.

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