Grant Robertson should put more effort into developing a coherent economic strategy, says BusinessNZ's Kirk Hope.
The present Labour-led Coalition Government needs to be clearer in communicating its economic policy to give businesses certainty and the confidence to make long-term investments, says BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope.
"There hasn't been much policy about business — and if there has been, it's not stuff business has seen as positive."
Hope suggests Finance Minister Grant Robertson should put more effort into managing government spending and developing a coherent economic strategy.
He says business confidence is "pretty weak" because of a combination of factors: policy changes, industrial relations situation and the decision to stop offshore oil and gas exploration.
"It was the way the decision was made (without consultation with industry)," he says.
"Rather than focusing on stopping the exploration, it was actually the process that made people pause and think whether their business will be impacted by a government decision they haven't seen coming."
Hope is not struck on the prospect of a 2019 Wellbeing Budget being based on a broader set of living standards rather than traditional economic measures such as GDP.
"We need measures on economic performance that are understood internationally, and our economy can be compared with others."
He is also hoping the Employment Relations Amendment Bill "won't go through unchanged."
The bill, according to Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, is designed to provide greater protections to workers, especially vulnerable workers, and strengthen the role of collective bargaining in the workplace to ensure fair wages and conditions.
Hope points to four areas of the bill that should be removed or amended:
● The requirement for businesses to take part in collective bargaining and to reach agreement with unions on outcomes
● Businesses are not allowed to opt out of multi-employer collective bargaining
● Unions may enter the workplace without notification
● Businesses with more than 20 employees are not allowed 90-day trials
Hope says strengthening the good faith provisions would remove the duty to conclude bargaining.
Businesses should be given 24 hours' notice before unions enter the workplace.
If medium-sized businesses were involved in multi-employer collective bargaining, then this could be used as a counter-measure, he says. "Take the example of ports which have multi employers and multi unions — if a union strikes, the port shuts down and that would be catastrophic, even if it is for a short period of time."
Hope says the Government should be investing more money into making assessments and ensuring people are work-ready rather than removing the 90-day trial (for businesses with more than 20 employees).
"There are people amongst the 80,000 not in education, employment or training who won't be work fit. The Government should focus on that."
Hope says the Government must make sure it keeps ahead of the infrastructure curve — such as housing and transport — as the population grows. "There needs to be a strategy around population growth — where people live and how they connect to where they work.
"We are seeing increasing demand for our goods and services. If we are not able to meet that demand with our domestic population, then the people coming in must have the skills available to fill that demand and supply the goods and services.
"We are aware of how the markets are opening up for us — nine Free Trade Agreements going to 19 with the CPTTP and the prospect of more than doubling that with the European Union agreement.
"There is a great opportunity for New Zealand," Hope says.
Kirk Hope's Top Three Issues
• Fixing capacity constraints in infrastructure, population growth
• Policy certainty for investment