WA business leaders want the re-elected Morrison Government to give the sluggish economy a boost and start tackling a long list of festering problems instead of politicking.
Many business leaders believed WA prospers when the population climbs.
Phoenix Academy chief executive Robynne Walsh is concerned about a population policy that will give incentives to migrants to move to regional areas and smaller cities.
“It’s an amazing story, it’s fantastic, except WA is not included,” she said. “We have been classified as a big city.”
Master Builders WA executive director John Gelavis said the last construction boom was on the back of big levels of overseas migration and net interstate migration.
WA Museum Foundation chief executive Jenny Allen thinks Eastern States workers will be less inclined to come to WA after the last boom.
“They don’t want to come here anymore because we don’t have the credibility for security with their jobs,” she said.
Brownes Dairy chief executive Tony Girgis is concerned about labour, with many locals not wanting to get up at 3am. “Some of the foreigners are quite happy to come and do that, and they think the wages are great,” he said.
He laments the visa changes that have made it harder to hire workers from overseas, as does Tourism WA chairman Nathan Harding. “Every chef we bring in will enable four to five kitchen hands to start, and that chef can then have apprentices,” Mr Harding said.
The tourism boss also wants visas for Asian tourists to be simpler and cheaper.
Motor Trade Association chief executive Stephen Moir thinks his industry is staring down a skills crisis. He said rather than boosting apprenticeship numbers the Federal Government should support mentoring to cut the current “appalling” completion rate.
“You’ll get a much stronger outcome than simply chasing new apprentices and seeing them fail,” he said.
Linda O’Farrell, people manager for Fortescue Metals Group, said that contrary to the perceptions of many, pay in the mining game was not rising substantially, except for specific skills such as heavy diesel fitters. She said the industry had to train people through both booms and busts.
FMG has struggled to fully train apprentices in the Pilbara so has set up a training centre at one of its mine sites so TAFE could come to its students.
She said training would help workers deal with the consequences of automation.
Spacecubed general manager Chandra Sundareswaran said changing technology required a skills transformation.
“Look at the indigenous population in the Pilbara,” he said.
“A lot of them do very basic low-skilled jobs in the mining sector. Five years from now, they won’t have any jobs to go to.”
Skilling the future workforce was just one of the long-running problems the business leaders identified as well-known and well-researched but sadly lacking decisive action.
Scotch College headmaster Alec O’Connell said the old school funding model unpicked in 2011 still hadn’t been fixed.
“Just sort out the funding model, try to get some certainty around it,” he said. “Whatever funding is increased, it really should be going to disadvantaged communities, not to the western suburbs.”
St Vincent de Paul Society chief executive Susan Rooney is also concerned about the less well off. She said social housing has lacked investment for decades and would not improve without a national policy.
Look at the indigenous population in the Pilbara. A lot of them do very basic low-skilled jobs in the mining sector. Five years from now, they won’t have any jobs to go to.
Telethon Speech and Hearing chief executive Mark Fitzpatrick said identifying where best to invest in social infrastructure to also stimulate the broader economy should be a priority for the incoming Government.
He said the appointment of the first Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme raised hopes for real progress.
“Fixing that unwieldy horrible beast that I wouldn’t want to put my family through is something that they need to get right,” he said.
Amana Living chief executive Stephanie Buckland said the number of people older than 80 is set to increase 30 per cent in just eight years and aged care needed some urgent attention.
P&N Bank managing director Andrew Hadley talked banking and warned that the Government’s response to the Hayne royal commission should not result in regulations that favoured the “absolute oligopoly” of the big four banks.
Perdaman Advanced Energy managing director Dominic Da Cruz was equally forthright on energy. “Listen to people who know what they are doing … stop pandering to a minority which is propping up an industry — coal-fired power stations — which is dead,” he said.
Media Stable managing director Nic Hayes summed up the group’s mood, and perhaps that of the nation, after a decade of turmoil in Canberra.
“This is a moment for Scott Morrison and his Government to do something crazy, like actually lead,” he said.