Home' Forge : Vol 1 No 4 Contents 24 // INSIGHT
competitiveness rankings. If this
slide continues, Australia will not
deliver the revenue or jobs it needs
to maintain our quality of life. We
urgently need reform, and it must
focus on the big-ticket items of tax
and the labour market.
Forge: How can Australian business
play a bigger role in Asia and
capitalise on the coming middle-
class consumption boom in
KC: It’s a good question. The
presence of Australian business
in Asia is particularly low among
SMEs. More SMEs are selling to
Asia, but there is a big diference
between exporting compared
to building a strong on-ground
presence in the region.
To be fair, a lot of Australian
businesses are doing it tough and
are not in a position to expand
overseas; but there has been
complacency about opportunities
in Asia. Australia’s remarkable
run of economic growth over two
decades probably encouraged some
businesses to stay at home and stop
innovating their business models.
Consequently, Australian business
has a lot of ground to make up in
the region if it is to capitalise on
the Asian Century. The federal
government can play a leadership
role in encouraging Australian
business to expand into the
region, and in ensuring that Asian
languages are taught at our schools.
Making more of the alumni of
Asian students who were educated
in Australia could build a vast
network across the region.
Forge: What could Australian
industry look like by 2025 if the
government delivers a new era
KC: We will have a stronger
services economy with a growing
footprint in Asia. Manufacturing
will still play a vital role, but it will
be in higher-tech and niche areas.
Consider our potential in tourism.
The Australian tourism industry is
benefting from strong growth in
inbound Chinese tourism; but we
are still only getting a small share
of the overall Chinese international
Imagine if we focused our tourism
industry much more on the
emerging Asian middle-class. If
we made our airports friendlier
and easier for Asian tourists, with
better signage for people with
limited English skills, and quicker
processing at customs; and if our
hotels better catered for the Asian
market, tourism could become one
of our greatest industries.
Economic reforms could also
unleash a wave of innovators and
entrepreneurs who have a global
focus from day one. By 2025, we
will have more kids at school who
want to become entrepreneurs,
and have far better access to capital
compared to previous generations.
The combination of a more
innovative, service-based economy
with a much greater Asia focus has
exceptional long-term potential if
we get the policy settings right.
Forge: How signifcant are
Australia’s free trade agreements
with Japan, South Korea and China,
and the proposed Trans Pacifc
KC: They are incredibly signifcant.
They send a message to Asia and
our trade partners worldwide that
Australia is open for business. One
need only look at New Zealand’s
free trade agreement with China
and the benefts that it produced for
the New Zealand dairy industry to
understand the long-term potential.
Our agriculture companies, too,
have enormous potential to build
their market share in Asia, thanks to
these free trade agreements.
Our services sector has much to gain.
Like Australia, China has a rapidly
ageing population, and will therefore
need more healthcare and aged-
care services. Australia is superbly
positioned to export its skills in
health care, professional services,
wealth management and other
service-based industries to Asia.
The Australian Chamber was
dismayed by union opposition to
the China–Australia Free Trade
Agreement (ChAFTA). The union
campaign sent a terrible message to
the rest of the world that Australia
did not want its business. It was
short-sighted, and potentially very
Forge: What attracted you to the role
of CEO of the Australian Chamber?
KC: It mixes the things I love
professionally: SMEs, industry
regulation and public policy. I
passionately believe that Australia’s
economic future depends on
helping the SME sector grow and
become more innovative. As the
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 22
A WAVE OF
WHO HAVE A
FROM DAY ONE
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