John H C Colvin outlines why the Company Directors annual conference will help set the agenda for national debate on Australia’s economic prospects.
I’m looking forward with much anticipation to catching up with as many of you as possible at Company Directors’ annual conference on Hamilton Island from 21 to 24 May.
The conference is always an ideal time to reflect on the previous 12 months and the challenges that have presented themselves to the director community during that period, as well as its successes.
This year’s event will be our 17th conference and we are more than confident that it will continue the high standards set in previous years, including the new benchmark set by our fourth offshore conference held in Singapore last year.
We expect more than 400 delegates to travel to Queensland and enjoy some last summer warmth before cooler weather reaches those of us who live in the southern states. It is not too late to register for the event – last minute bookings are always possible, so please come along.
The usual packed schedule of sessions and forums will inform directors about the latest ideas, trends and issues that influence their sectors. We are privileged to have international speakers, such as global economist Nader Mousavizadeh, social impact consultant Mark Kramer and Australian expat Robert TJ Morris (who is global vice president of IBM Research) among our presenters.
Perennial conference favourite Tales from the Corporate Battlefield is again the last session on the program. This year we will hear firsthand about the well-publicised crises endured in recent times by surf wear company Billabong International, exploration company Intrepid Mines and agricultural business Cubbie Group.
Our conference is about the opportunity to network with like-minded business people as much as it is about education, and the social events will help you connect with other directors in an informal environment. These range from welcome drinks on Hamilton Island’s stunning Catseye beach to Thursday night’s Front St Fiesta.
The traditional closing dinner will be a masquerade ball – we supply the masks and, in keeping with this year’s conference location, the dress code is “party – no jacket required” instead of black tie.
On a more serious note, I would like to draw your attention to the theme of the conference – Igniting the growth agenda – as it is an issue focusing the minds of both business and government as Australia moves from an unprecedented mining boom to an altogether different economic environment.
As you are aware, the challenges facing Australia in this transition are significant. Policies that have encouraged our high-cost, low-productivity economy need to be replaced with those that will enhance the opportunity for directors and senior executives to make decisions that will increase investment and ultimately create more jobs for Australians.
Company Directors continues to lobby on your behalf for such changes, including pushing for a reduction in the red tape that inhibits the performance of all kinds of organisations – from listed companies to privately-owned business and not-for-profits. We need to develop an entrepreneurial “can do” culture and get away from our present “blame culture”, which is reflected in our restrictive regulatory environment and which undermines productivity and prosperity.
Our Directors Sentiment Index consistently reveals that our members believe that red tape and global economic uncertainty are the biggest impediments to productivity growth. The last survey for the second half of 2013 was also the sixth consecutive survey in which infrastructure was rated as the top policy priority for the federal government in both the long and short-term. Improving productivity was identified as the second most urgent issue to be addressed if Australia is to respond to its economic challenges.
It is vitally important that the private sector has the freedom to operate in a way that allows it to thrive. If it is denied this opportunity, there is a very real risk our standard of living, and the tax revenue that funds schools, health and aged care, will fall.
Our conference agenda aims to encourage debate not only about the key issues that governments should tackle to overcome this threat, but also the issues that directors themselves must grasp if they are to steer their organisations successfully through the significant and rapid change that characterises the modern world.
Finally, the reason we chose Hamilton Island to host this year’s conference is not just its exotic locale. The island itself is a business success story. Such a location also provides an opportunity for directors to remove themselves from the daily noise that prevent them from reflecting on the big-picture issues. It is an opportunity to stand back and properly assess crucial issues and I look forward to sharing that experience with you.
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