Speaking on a panel at the Australian Financial Review business summit in Sydney, Mr Kane was presented with data from accounting firm PwC showing more Australians believed the best way to achieve wages growth was to lift the minimum wage, another ACTU priority, than any other method.
“That tells you that there is a massive deficit in economic education in this society,” Mr Kane said.
And if Australia’s major industries were subject to too much regulation, Mr Kane said, it would put people out of work.
“You’re supposed to re-skill people to be barristas?” he said.
But the business leaders disagreed on how to promote the role of business in Australia following criticism from the Hayne royal commission.
“I do not believe that industry should adopt a collective guilt,” Mr Kane said.
And he gave the example of the banking sector, which Mr Kane noted was regulated by three different bodies, as evidence of his argument that regulation does not solve most corporate problems.
“The notion that we should have further government regulation is stunning to me,” Mr Kane said.
Tania Counstable, chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia, agreed business should do more to promote itself, but said the problem was timing.
“It doesn’t help that we’ve also got elections where it’s easy to beat up on big business at this particular time, it’s an easy target,” Ms Counstable said.
The federal election is due by May and NSW is heading to the polls on March 23.
“Get on the other side of elections, get on the other side of being transparent about what we’ve done in terms of taking those learnings and then start to say we should all be creating the narrative about business is good for these reasons,” she said.
I do not believe that industry should adopt a collective guilt.
Boral CEO Mike Kane
There was broad agreement from speakers on the panel, including Council of Small Business Associations of Australia boss Peter Strong, that Australia’s technical skills education system was not performing properly.
“Vocational education and training has failed in this country,” Mr Strong said.
In NSW, both Opposition Leader Michael Daley and Premier Gladys Berejiklian have unveiled plans to improve the TAFE system.
Nick is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.