Australian business women have led the debate at the 2011 Tax forum after the two-day seminar was officially opened by Julia Gillard (October 4).
The prime minister used her address to the business community to highlight the role external pressures play in economic policy, as well as identifying growth opportunities for Australian commercial activities.
Commenting that the private sector should remain mindful of the "overhang" of the global financial crisis and learn to "adapt" its business practices to Asian markets, she said: "It’s important that people have a deep understanding of the trends in the global economy but that we aren’t spooked."
However, it was treasurer Wayne Swan who was left to flesh out the details of the government's proposed legislative changes.
Mr Swan said: "Our tax system will have important differences in just nine months from now, provided the changes pass the Parliament: an $18,200 tax-free threshold, a billion dollar small business tax break, a Minerals Resource Rent Tax and fairer super concessions."
But many people felt that the government reforms did not go far enough and a number of representatives from the business community pushed for greater tax cuts.
In fact, it was the business sector that made major proposals on the first day of talks with the two opening speakers advocating tax cuts in order to stimulate local retail and financial markets.
Both Heather Ridout, chief executive officer of the Australian Industry Group (AI Group) and Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), suggested a 30 per cent reduction to the current corporate tax rate.
The head of the AI Group, which represents an estimated 60,000 businesses across a broad range of industry sectors including the manufacturing, engineering, construction and automotive industry, said that reforms were needed to bolster a number of industries while also promoting jobs.
Ridout said the tax cut initiative "was about supporting industries and creating jobs".
She added: It's very important that be understood."
Union officials were critical of the policy proposals made by both Ridout and Westacott, describing calls for a tax cut as largely self-serving.
Jeff Lawrence, ACTU secretary, instead argued that the corporate tax rate in Australia was already low.
Many experts and commentators were critical of the way the forum had entered familiar terrain by falling along union versus business fault lines.
However, despite differences in opinion there were key emerging trends drawn out after the initial round of talks and these include the need to stimulate growth and promote jobs.