Responding to low business confidence, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given industry a “voice at the table” with the announcement of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council.
Speaking at Westpac’s New Zealand headquarters this morning, the Prime Minister said she wanted the newly announced group to “shift our dialogue from responding to surveys to building a proactive relationship”.
The Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council would be chaired by Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon and over the coming weeks they will put together a team of business leaders “committed to building a new economy, to advise on matters relating to the economy, our strategy and agenda”.
“I want the council to report to me on the issues and opportunities they see and identify emerging challenges like skills, training and migration and the challenge of scaling New Zealand businesses up and growing our export-led wealth.
“I want to work closely with and be advised by senior business leaders who take a helicopter view of our economy, who are long-term strategic thinkers and who have the time and energy to lead key aspects of our economic transformation agenda.
“This is about ensuring business has a voice at the table, but also are actively involved in leading us in our new direction.”
The Prime Minster was introduced by Westpac New Zealand chief executive David McLean who was first to call out “the elephant in the room” – business confidence. He said most economic indicators, including businesses view of their own activity, were at odds with the headline business confidence number.
McLean said businesses needed to accept there was a degree of policy uncertainty with a new government and they needed to get involved with the consultation process.
“In my view it is also time for the business community to get over the election result and just “get on with business”, he said
The Prime Minster said in her travels, the underlying theme that emerged was “certainty” and she recognised that her government was “renovating” the economy for the 21st Century.
Her government was an MMP government though, and all change was negotiated.
She urged business to be part of the negotiation and part of the consultation.
“My message to you all is this - now is the time to be involved and help shape this work for a better economy.”
Responding to speculation about Fair Pay Agreements that would set minimum terms and conditions for all workers in an entire industry or occupation, the Prime Minster said they were taking a “cautious and considered approach”.
Fair pay agreements were intended to address “areas where there is entrenched low wages and low wage growth” and would not be accompanied by the ability to take strike action”.
The Prime Minister said there would be no more than one or two fair pay agreements concluded during this Government’s term and they would only be in industries and sectors that have “low pay and in which the workers are vulnerable and regularly exploited”.
“We will not be an idle Government, and I won’t be an idle Prime Minister.
“We are promoting change because without change our businesses and our economy are at risk. But change does not need to breed uncertainty, not when instead it can breed opportunity.
“I have confidence that our relationship will thrive, that our agenda will successfully tackle the challenges we face, and that our shared achievements for the country will leave a lasting legacy future generations will thank us for.”