Where is the plan for our economic future?

The government recently revealed the state of its books, and while a $10 billion deficit deterioration since the May Budget is getting much of the attention, the bigger concern is a continuation of the trend of chasing a surplus for surplus' sake.

Since 2010 I have said loudly and often that a surplus or a deficit is not a goal. It is an outcome of a plan.

Australians are increasingly demanding a plan to frame our competitive future and exhibiting frustration at not getting one.

Cost-cutting alone is not the way to build a broadbased, sustainable and resilient economy. Temporary levies and selling off productive assets is not the way to address the lack of revenue lines in the economy.

We have known for years that we're too reliant on iron ore and coal exports and that prices have been declining since 2011, yet what have we done to build the non-mining sectors of our economy?

If Australian governments of the past few years were businesses, and I was the CEO, I would have already dismissed several general managers.

Challenges for our economy are real and urgent, and have been for many years. Rather than confront the reality of the end of the mining boom, the previous Rudd-Gillard-Rudd administration allowed itself to be distracted by the politics of a race to surplus. The evidence is that it's happening again.

Leadership is about bringing people with you: identifying a challenge, clearly articulating a plan and most importantly mobilising people to that cause. What is Australia's cause?

It is clear to business that the vagaries of the parliament are causing uncertainty. Uncertainty is a business and jobs killer. It stifles investment and causes businesses to hold back.

While I acknowledge composition of the Senate is complex, it's also a manifestation of our democracy.

Complaining about it could be viewed as an excuse for not engaging in the meaningful discussions required to bring people along with your vision.

Mums, dads and grandparents, obsessive about the future of their kids, know that the jobs of the future will come from a knowledge-based economy. While government finances based on realistic estimates are vitally important, what the business and general community are looking for is a long-term plan. With the clock ticking in an ultra-competitive world, no one has time for any more excuses.

Alex Malley is chief executive of CPA Australia.

This article was first published on Tuesday 23 December in the Daily Telegraph.