Checking the docket on how expensive it is to do business in Oz
Australia is a high-cost place to do business, apparently.
I know because I read it in the papers regularly. Tom Albanese, of Rio Tinto, complained this week about the high cost of doing business in Australia. BG Group saying the cost of its Gladstone coal-seam gas project have blown out. The Business Council cited high costs back in April. One of those absurd “business roundtables” the AFR conducts, back in February, was given over to business executives lamenting “we’re becoming a high-cost, low-productivity nation”.
Usually the fault is laid at the blame of the government. Labor was “anti-business”, complained Graham Bradley in February, mainly because of the Fair Work Act. But the carbon tax cops criticism too. Today the head of the AIG complained that the carbon tax was creating uncertainty because, unlike the GST, businesses couldn’t calculate its impacts.
So let’s look at the evidence.
Has the Fair Work Act increased costs for business? Let’s look at the ABS’s unit labour cost index. When the index is above 100, wage pressures are assumed to exist. How has it fared under this government?
So, this is pretty much the only government in 30 years to eliminate wage pressures for business. The only area where the government has failed to curb wage pressures has been in executive remuneration, which continues to relentlessly increase at rates well ahead of inflation.
How about industrial disputes? Let’s have a look at the long-term trend. This is the number of days lost to industrial disputes per thousand employees. There was a much-vaunted spike in disputes in the September quarter last year, mostly driven by aggressive employers, but otherwise the level of disputes remains at historic lows.
What about the business cost that is in the direct control of government, tax? Last year’s budget papers tell us the ratio between company tax to corporate gross operating surplus:
That is, outside mining, the overall tax take from business has fallen as a proportion of gross operating surplus. Plus, there’s the small matter of the corporate tax cut the government wants to introduce, which the Coalition and the Greens are opposing. In fact, this is a low-taxing government compared to its predecessor. Remember the Coalition’s rhetoric about being the party of small government, then have a look at tax revenue as a proportion of GDP and figure out which side of politics taxes less:
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