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QR NATIONAL chief executive Lance Hockridge has deplored the level of public debate dominating the airwaves, pointing out that it is even distracting large foreign investors from the real issues at hand when they talk to Australian companies.
Echoing sentiments from other business leaders, Mr Hockridge said he had become ''terribly disenchanted with the level of debate'', which was masking ''real issues'' facing the Australian economy such as the need to make it more competitive. ''We need a hell of a lot more, frankly, than a national conversation dominated by the latest outrageous comments by the shocks jocks or gender-warring politicians,'' he told a business gathering in Sydney yesterday.
''We need to focus on what matters for the long-term health and sustainability of the Australian and world economies, not what is just important from the point of view of the 15-second news grab.''
Highlighting QR National's progress from a wholly government-owned asset to a privatised rail-haulage company, Mr Hockridge said competitiveness needed to be at the centre of debate about productivity improvements in Australia. ''We need to cut through the complacency that these high prices have nurtured. Governments, like business, need to be single-minded about the best option to support growth,'' he said.
Mr Hockridge said he was dismayed about the extent to which the poor level of public debate had distracted foreign investors during QR National's roadshows overseas. However, he said there was no evidence to suggest it was resulting in their turning away from Australia.
While Australia was experiencing reduced demand for resources, Mr Hockridge again warned against investors putting too much weight on ''animated commentary about the end of the boom''.
''We continue to be believers that the fundamentals of global resource demand remain unchanged and growth is long-term and sustainable,'' he said.
''Despite the naysayers of this world, we believe that Australia still has enormous unlocked wealth potential. But we need to get our act together, and fast.''
Shares in QR National have gained 8 per cent since the Queensland government sold more than half its stake in Australia's largest rail operator on October 8. The sell-down has largely removed investor concerns about a share overhang from the government's stake.
This article first appeared on www.brisbanetimes.com.au
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