Company directors say Australia needs to increase GST but they can't see Canberra being able to act

Tony Abbott during Hoquestion time at Parliament House. Stefan Postles/Getty Images

Australian board directors overwhelmingly support significant reform of the GST, including an increase in the rate, according to a survey of members of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

They also expressed concern, in the latest Director Sentiment Index, that public policy debate in Australia is “poor quality”.

Overall sentiment among company directors has slipped 2.4 points so far in 2015 and has been trending down since just after the Coalition government was elected in September 2013.

Late last year, confidence felt by company directors for the Coalition government slumped to its lowest level since the election.

More than three-quarters (78%) of directors believe the 10% GST (Goods and Services Tax) should be increased and/or broadened.

“The results are a telling indication of the desire for change as our members come from all parts of the community, not just business,” said the AICD’s CEO John Brogden.

“However, the survey also highlights a widespread fear that hostile Senates are a barrier to significant reform of any kind.”

The Director Sentiment Index is the only indicator measuring the sentiment and future intentions of directors of Australian companies, not-for-profit organisations and public sector bodies.

One-third (35%) said the government’s priority for next week’s Federal budget should be increasing long-term revenue by restructuring the tax system.

One-third of respondents ranked the balance of power in the Senate as among the top three economic issues facing business, behind low productivity growth and low consumer confidence.

“It is a problem now faced by successive governments and is an impediment to sensible policy-making,” said Brogden.

“Directors are looking for quality public debate on a range of issues impacting the economy – including budgetary policy, tax reform, industrial relations and infrastructure. A remarkable 85% of respondents to our survey rated the quality of current public policy debate as poor.”

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