Morrison out of touch with can-do capitalists

The Morrison Government is not only out of touch with much of the community but also with Australia’s business community – as demonstrated by the February 2022 Australian Institute of Company Directors member survey.

Morrison may believe in can-do capitalism but capitalists don’t seem to believe in can-do Scott Morrison.

The Directors Sentiment Index (DSI) is conducted for the Institute by Roy Morgan twice-yearly with the latest being reported in the February issue of the Company Director magazine.

While Directors are more optimistic than pessimistic about the next 12 months they have some deep concerns. Two thirds think the outlook for investment turnover and profits is good but more than half are facing labour shortages (and simultaneously worry about wage inflation) and worry about supply chain problems and rising costs.

The top issues they believe the Federal Government should address in the next three years are: climate change (48%), skills shortage (41%), energy policy (27%), tax reform (26%) and productivity growth (23%).

In the next 10 to 20 years priorities are: climate change (59%), international competitiveness (27%), ageing population (26%), energy policy (22%) and productivity growth (22%).

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO, Andrew McKellar, told the Company Director magazine that climate change was an area which had seen changes in attitudes.

“…business has broadly backed a more ambitious agenda. This is an area where business has moved substantially in the past five or six years. Before that business was probably more reticent about the risks and costs of policies that were designed to drive action. What has change is that business understands the risks of inaction are actually much more costly than committing to a more active agenda in this space.”

Hopefully they are telling the Morrison Government that as well.

When it comes to levels of satisfaction with Australian policies some of the results are predictable and some surprising.

Directors are generally satisfied with infrastructure spending (44%) but a third are dissatisfied because they think it is too low. 41% are dissatisfied with corporate/company tax although was it not ever thus? Directors’ attitude to tax is always predictable even though a number of companies – such as energy companies – pay next to nothing anyway.

54% are dissatisfied with education spending and 98% of the dissatisfied think education spending is too low. 56% are dissatisfied with innovation/R&D support with 99% thinking the support is too low. 73% think their company needs to diversify employee skills sets with a specific focus on digital capabilities (59%)

Needless to say almost half are dissatisfied with personal tax rates even though the effective tax rates of many of them is probably significantly less than that of the workers they are worried might get paid too much.

Some 60% support an emission trading scheme for the Australian economy and some 28% think infrastructure spending should focus on nuclear energy.76% believe COVID vaccines should be obligatory for all staff in their sector.

As for the coming election campaign no one seems to be expecting much. Carol Austin , an HSBC Director, told the Company Director magazine: “I would like to think the election will be fought on policy issues but I doubt this will be the case. I suspect there will be a lot of scaremongering and mud slinging but it has always been thus.”

Incidentally Roy Morgan will be adding to our understanding of the current state of public opinion with its release on March 24 of its latest Trust and Distrust report. It has a very robust sample size of more than 5,000.

The last found that Australia’s most distrusted organization was the Federal Government followed by Centrelink. The Liberal Party also ranked high in the distrust field.

Unsurprisingly company director attitudes to Centrelink are not covered by the AICD survey so we can’t compare and contrast.