Business leaders have warned the 45th parliament a brake on migration would hurt economic growth, as Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition government claimed victory eight days after the election.
Pauline Hanson’s resurgent One Nation party called for a ban on Muslim immigration to Australia and is set to wield some power in the Senate.
Simon Swanson, managing director of financial services company ClearView Wealth, said the economy was doing reasonably well but it was “migration that’s holding up the economy”.
“I don’t believe real incomes are growing anywhere as strongly as we’d like. The GDP of the country, the gross domestic product, is increasing because we’ve got an increasing population.”
A migration ban “would have an impact – ask Japan,” he said. “We would not have population growth if we had no migration. That’s just a fact, it’s not a political statement. That has consequences.”
Hamish McLennan, chairman of real estate listing giant REA, said it was important the government “can lead with some authority” because minority government was bad for business.
“It’s unfortunate there’s not an alignment in the upper and lower house,” he said. “And we’ve never lived in a more volatile time where we need appropriate reforms and a progressive business environment.”
This includes changes to company tax, having a strategy for the tech sector, and dealing with foreign investment, he said.
Peter Strong, of the Council of Small Business of Australia, called for civility and stability in this parliament.
“We certainly don’t want people attacking each other over nothing constantly,” he said. “We need a government for three years and a prime minister for three years. An election this year would be terrible for the country.”
Mr Strong said the economy needed to be managed “for everyone”.
“At the moment there’s three unions and maybe 12 companies that think they run the place,” he said.
“The Turnbull government stared them down with the effects test,” referring to banning companies with a substantial degree of power from engaging in conduct that would or would likely have the effect of lessening competition.
The government supports an effects test; Labor does not. Coles managing director John Durkan has warned an effects test could hurt investment plans, job creation and economic growth. Woolworths has warned it would “chill” competition.
Mr Swanson said it was important Australians didn’t panic about a minority government, because its success would hinge on the quality of the MPs.
And he said corporate tax cuts – one of the few policies the Coalition took to the election – were not “an absolute have-to-have but I think it’s important that it’s actually in the mix”.
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