CANBERRA – More companies could fall over in 2012 and push up unemployment if the fallout from the current round of global economic turmoil continues, a leading business group warns.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said yesterday that the nation would have to rely more heavily on wealth creation and business profits next year if the local economy was to continue to grow and help the federal government repair the budget.

But chamber chief executive Peter Anderson said “unfortunately 2012 carries the risk of rising business failures and higher unemployment due to lower global growth forecasts and increased business costs pencilled in from mid-year”.

“The Reserve Bank’s two interest rate reductions in the past two months warn of tougher times ahead,” he said.

The warning comes as retailers struggle to make sales because consumers remain cautious.

Mr Anderson said there should also be a rethink on business profitability, after a year in which big corporations such as banks were castigated for earning billions of dollars while the average Australian struggled with higher utility costs and mortgage repayments.

He said 2012 needed to be a year when making profits was greeted with a sigh of relief, not a dirty word.

“Making a profit and protecting the business bottom-line will need to be the catch-cry in 2012.”

The chamber’s call came as acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan said Treasury had begun work on the 2012-13 budget and a new opinion poll showed Labor remained in the doldrums with voters.

The Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper showed that on a two-party preferred basis, federal Labor now sits on national support of 45 per cent while the Coalition is on 55 per cent.

The Treasurer dismissed the results, saying he did not take notice of opinion polls anymore.

“We are getting on with the big challenges and opportunities that lie before Australia . . . particularly the challenges posed by the international economy,” Mr Swan said.

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