Guilty. It’s not just the political class wrecking Australia’s economic future. Beside them in the dock are the overpaid corporate bureaucrats at the top of those Australian companies content to cuddle-up to the Left for fear of reprisals, who refuse to put up the cash to defend private enterprise by offsetting the multi-millions of dollars of union election spending aimed at its destruction, who secretly pay off union thugs, commit their (temporary) empires to trendy social campaigns without reference to shareholders and will not even dirty their hands fighting in public against Labor/populist attacks on crucial matters of self-interest like vitally needed corporate tax relief.
It’s not as if the corporate world is unaware of the danger. ‘The well-funded anti-business agenda is a risk not just to corporate Australia but to all Australians. Business is currently responsible for 80 per cent of all economic activity in Australia and employs 10 million out of 11 million working Australians. So activists promoting their anti-business agenda must explain what viable alternative they have for providing economic security and prosperity.’ This was the response of the Business Council of Australia’s Jennifer Westacott to a Menzies Institute study that anti-business activists spent four times more a year ($160 million) on political campaigning than business and right-aligned think tanks. The Australian Industry Group’s Innes Willox proposed countering this by ‘Better strategy, better co-ordination, more resources and quicker responses’.
But so far, the only weapon the industry associations in their big Canberra offices, are prepared to use in this fight for survival is the microphone of media statements; unread annual reports, submissions, five-second grabs and op-eds are somehow supposed to sway a public inundated with professional campaigning by well-funded anti-business activists, think tanks, action groups and greenies. At least the mining industry has recognised the immediacy of the threat to it and has entered the fray with a series of TV ads supporting the mining and export of lower-carbon emitting coal – but even then they are being outspent and out-manoeuvred by Get-Up! and other activists whose campaign against the Adani mine development has an almost religious fervour. Being in the front line of a battle for survival has given the Minerals Council’s Brendan Pearson a view of reality. In urging a rethink by corporate Australia of its decision largely to opt out of politics, he warned ‘There is more of this anti-business activism than there has ever been and the business community should not just crawl up and hide under the desk… There is a case for proactive action. The business community has got to make its case’. But like Boral’s Mike Kane, another free-enterprise warrior vigorously defending his patch, he has few allies prepared to stand beside him.
In the absence of anything more from the business community other than supportive rhetoric, there is no doubt that the Turnbull government does not have the popular status (nor, many say, the ability) to carry, on its own, the case for its phased-in corporate tax cuts. These are initially for small business and ultimately, over 10 years, extend to the big companies some of whose sullied reputations Labor has targeted. There has been no effective response to Treasurer Scott Morrison’s recent warning to the big end of town that by failing to become involved they would become casualties of their own inaction. While ‘Australians readily accept that supporting and backing the efforts of small and medium-sized businesses is good for our economy and good for jobs… they remain less convinced about larger businesses’, said the Treasurer. This was clearly an admission that unless big business gets off its butt and starts campaigning, the prospect of getting the less-than-popular but economically far more beneficial big company tax cut through parliament looks slim; goodbye to the consequential jobs and growth. And the big guys have not noticed that the popular acceptance of help to small business has been the result of a lengthy and consistent campaign, particularly when Bruce Billson was Tony Abbott’s Minister for Small Business before being dropped under Turnbull.
At five minutes to midnight, corporate inaction is no longer an option.
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