LEADERS SURVEY: Business Council of Australia’s Bran Black on why granny knows best & how to get cash flowing

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Bran Black, the freshly minted boss of the Business Council of Australia, is leaning on his grandmother’s words to guide the country’s peak business lobby group.
Bran Black, the freshly minted boss of the Business Council of Australia, is leaning on his grandmother’s words to guide the country’s peak business lobby group. Credit: Sam DAgostino

Australia is in a lucky spot says Business Council of Australia chief executive Bran Black, but the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow won’t come without hard work.

The freshly minted boss of the BCA is leaning on his grandmother’s words to guide the country’s peak business lobby group.

“She used to say the true test of character is not how you treat your equals and superiors, but how you treat your inferiors,” Mr Black told The Nightly for its exclusive Leaders Survey.

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“The wording might seem a little outdated, but the principle of treating everyone with respect and kindness is absolutely timeless.”

Mr Black has hit the ground running just six months since taking the gig, homing in on the biggest threat to Australia’s business ecosystem.

“In one word, investment,” the chief of staff to former New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

“We’ve been a net exporter of capital for the last four years — the first time that’s been the case in over a century.

“Uncertainty about our regulatory environment is driving capital away from Australia. Companies with other investment options are putting us in the ‘too hard’ basket.”

Mr Black says the evidence is in Australia’s the resources sector, where companies are opting to greenlight projects in places like the US or Canada where the investment environment is “simpler and easier to navigate”.

He said the 2023 Intergenerational Report was “crystal clear” in highlighting the significant long-term challenges we face as a nation.

The former Corrs Chambers Westgarth lawyer is no stranger to navigating through red tape and acutely aware of its consequences.

“There is a burning platform right now with the amount of red tape which has built up in our economy, and it is time for policies which address these serious short-term and long-term challenges,” he said.

“I’m deeply concerned that if we can’t draw in more investment, we’ll see our scope for productivity gains reduced and we’ll risk our capacity to continue paying for our high standard of living.

“Addressing them won’t be easy, and we need policies which create the right conditions for businesses to thrive and, importantly, create future jobs in sectors where we will see demand.”

The lucky country

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel, Mr Black believes tackling the productivity and policy challenges will unlock a huge opportunity at our country’s doorstep.

“The number of households in Southeast Asia with $15,000 USD or more in disposable income is projected to increase from 33 million today to 144 million by 2040.”

“This is a complex, quickly growing region with a fast-growing middle class, and we’re lucky to be in proximity to it.

“ASEAN is a key focus for the Business Council in our international relationship building efforts.”

He also points to India as another golden opportunity for Australia’s future prosperity.

“Our free trade agreement with India is currently in its final stages and could be completed later this year,” Mr Black said.

“Australia would be the first western country in 10 years to strike a free trade deal with India.”

BCA’s chief has a big task ahead marshalling his organisation to help shape an economy with less red tape, sustainable wage rises and stronger trade links.

But he wants to BCA to achieve its mission with a positive internal environment.

He told the Nightly the greatest leadership lesson he’s learnt is to heap on the adulation.

“Give praise openly and generously — it’s as important as constructive feedback.”

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