It looked as if corporate Australia and the business lobby had given up lobbying for better business conditions and a freer economy, and instead found it easier to virtue signal on social issues such as same-sex marriage. The effect of this stance is that they had ceded the moral high ground on economics and business to the union movement and were engaging in social justice campaigning because they the believed their opponents rhetoric about them being evil corporate raiders needing to prove their moral value.
However now that the union movement under the leadership of ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has launched their #changetherules campaign attacking casual work and independent contractors, plus to the failure of the government to legislate company tax cuts and the battering big business has taken thanks to the revelations in the Banking Royal Commission corporate Australia has finally decided to reenter the public debate and put some money and strategy behind their goals.
The peak business body in this nation is the Business Council of Australia whose current Chief Executive is Jennifer Westacott. All they could manage when lobbying for company tax cuts back in March was a letter signed by ten CEO’s addressed to Senators pledging if they passed the company tax cuts they would invest more in Australia and the tax cuts would lead to wage increases.
But this week Westacott and the Business Council decided to turn a new page releasing a strongly worded statement on Tuesday vowing to “defend the role of private enterprise as the engine of Australia’s prosperity and the creator of 86 per cent of all jobs in Australia” and to “take on the task of getting this message to the people who need to hear it. We’ll fight our opponents on their turf, but we won’t sacrifice our integrity”.
The statement also blasted their opponents in the union movement and left-wing ideologues “Those attacking business have no realistic alternative plan to grow our economy and quite often they assume money grows on trees. The truth is, no matter what their excuse is today, they will always belittle the role of the private sector because for them it is ideological”.
The statement wasn’t just an empty threat with the Business Council reportedly asking its 130 members to contribute $200,000 each to new lobby startup group operated by its advocacy body Centre Ground called For the Common Good. The website is pretty basic for the time being with two campaigns listed, more liberal trading hours in South Australia and the company tax cuts. They describe their work as “driven by the belief that all businesses, when given a fair go, create prosperity and welfare for all Australians”. The stated beliefs are lower taxes, less regulation, more trade, more investment and supporting small business.
Much as been made by opponents of the business lobby that one of the directors of Centre Ground and Executive Director of Membership for the Business Council is Andrew Bragg. Bragg was interim federal director of the Liberal Party in 2017 and was the Director of the Libs and Nats for Yes campaign during the Marriage Law Postal Survey. Given that 71 out of 76 Coalition seats voted yes one can conclude that Bragg knows how to win a campaign.
New Labor Senator and former New South Wales Premier and Sky News host Kristina Kennelly has already gone after Bragg in a vicious way by doxxing him on Twitter by publishing his family address from the ASIC register. Kennelly has also implied that the Business Council had engaged the services of soon to be defunct Cambridge Analytical which is the company responsible for the Facebook privacy data scandal.
The presence of Bragg on the Business Council’s campaign team clearly has those on the left worried, which in turn gives those on the right who have been crying out for leadership from the business community some reason for optimism. Let us hope this new leaf from the Business Council of Australia is not just hot air they can finally sell the benefit of a strong business sector to a voting public which is turning against free markets and is being subjected to an aggressive campaign from a rejuvenated union movement.