Qantas boss Alan Joyce is demanding action on climate change, industrial relations and red tape as Australia recovers from the coronavirus recession.
Mr Joyce said it was understandable people were more focused on dealing with the immediate impacts of the pandemic rather than incremental global warming.
But he said the summer bushfires were the clearest sign yet Australia ignored climate change at its peril.
“The longer we wait to genuinely tackle climate change, the harder it will be,” Mr Joyce said in a speech to business leaders.
“The world is becoming more ambitious in tackling climate change and so must we.”
Mr Joyce said other countries had not let the pandemic dull their climate ambitions.
China has pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2060 while South Korea and Japan have promised to hit the target by 2050.
A Joe Biden victory would see the United States commit to the same goal.
“Australia’s policy progress has been slowed by deeply partisan debates,” Mr Joyce said.
“We’ve let science lead the way on the pandemic, and it’s worked. Why should climate change be any different?”
Qantas has set its own target to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Mr Joyce also believes changes to workplace laws will deliver more flexibility and certainty.
He gave the example of Qantas immediately pausing wage increases for executives as the airline’s revenues were smashed, but not for employees on enterprise agreements.
“We have to go through lengthy negotiations with unions and then a vote to change provisions that don’t work in a post-COVID world,” Mr Joyce said.
“That can take months or years, despite the complete mismatch between an agreement made pre-COVID and the state of the economy post-COVID.”
The Qantas boss also wants businesses to be able to negotiate longer-term enterprise agreements that better align with investment decisions.
Mr Joyce argued over-regulation posed a significant risk to the economic recovery.
He is particularly unhappy with the additional scrutiny of airlines by a monitoring team at the competition watchdog.
“The last thing business in any sector needs right now is more red tape, taking time and energy when we should be focused on recovery.”
Qantas will turn 100 in less than two weeks and Mr Joyce said the timing could not be worse.
“But we remain fundamentally optimistic about the future of Qantas, and much of that belief is because we know Australia will bounce back,” he said.
“We have the opportunity now to ensure that we accelerate the recovery, through smart policy reforms that unlock investment and reflect the new world we’re living in.”