This article appeared in The Australian on 1 May 2018.
As Australians we are incredibly lucky. We’ve spent the last few decades reaping the benefits of uninterrupted economic growth, relatively high standards of living and growing prosperity.
It is tempting to believe the economic good times, created only through a thriving and vibrant private sector, will never end.
The anti-business agenda is seeping through the cracks of our complacency, and there is no point denying it – the recent behaviour of some businesses has emboldened our opponents.
This indefensible behaviour has handed the anti-business campaigners a fresh excuse to seek to punish the engine of Australia’s prosperity but the truth is, these people will always campaign against the private sector because they belittle the role of business.
But retrograde, backward looking anti-business policy would simply penalise those most at risk in a flagging economy.
Economic policy should not be used as a tool for vindictive revenge. Policies that undermine our foundations of free enterprise risk destabilising our institutions.
That is why I and the Business Council stand ready to fight an anti-business agenda which threatens our prosperity. It serves no-one but those with an axe to grind against growth, job creation, investment and innovation.
Make no mistake, our task will be more difficult than some of our opponents who peddle half-truths and falsehoods to distort the debate and exploit emotions. We always have been and remain committed to the facts and the intellectual rigour needed to develop sensible policy in the national interest.
To combat this anti-business sentiment, we’ve stepped up our campaign capability with a new advocacy program – telling the real stories of business in the community, through the channels people use and with messages they understand.
We have a multi-pronged campaign, aimed at reaching as many Australians as possible. We understand we will need to go toe to toe with our opponents on their turf.
Our advocacy builds of two fundamental truths; firstly, that big and small businesses employ 5 out of every 6 working Australians and second, businesses of all sizes rely on each other to grow.
Our Strong Australia partnership with Sky News, supported by News Corp Australia (publisher of this paper), is taking business leaders to areas throughout the country which are all too often locked out of the Sydney-Melbourne-Canberra centric debate.
We’ll be running TV and social media ads showing of the stories of those 5 out of 6 working Australians employed by a business.
And we will be telling the real stories of the big and small businesses all Australians rely on, helping each other grow and contributing to their communities.
Another initiative is our new grassroots campaign unit called For The Common Good, designed as a voice for sensible policy without partisanship.
There are three key things which underpin the Common Good: being prepared to use all ethical campaign tactics, pursuing policy literacy and fighting on issues across the spectrum. We will campaign on issues like education, foreign investment and regulation. We will be evidence based and in language that is easy to understand. The content will encourage Australians to voice their support for policies that help grow Australia. The Common Good respects the intelligence of the Australian people.
And, we will collect data voluntarily and comply with every Australian law.
The Common Good will focus on issues without backing candidates or parties and will not siphon money to any political party or affiliated entity such as a union.
For example, one of our first campaigns has highlighted the stupidity of South Australia’s shop trading hour laws. In the age of the internet, South Australians can buy almost anything online but on Sundays and public holidays, the shops are shut.
We will take on issues across the political spectrum. The Business Council was not constituted in 1983 to be a barracker for the Liberal or Labor Party. The minute we do that, we have no credibility.
For example, foreign investment may be as unpopular in the National Party as lower company taxes are presently in the Labor Party.
Australians need the truth. We are the 12th largest economy on earth with a small population. We have built a strong economy because of a commitment to lowering taxes, reducing regulation, seeking foreign investment and high levels of immigration.
The decade of anti-business attacks is taking its toll.
So, the Business Council and the Common Good will take on the task of increasing the community literacy on what makes a strong economy.
Some will claim this is yet another “anti-GetUp” but there is at least one fundamental difference – The Common Good and the Business Council will always rely on the facts.
We’ll fight our opponents on their turf, but we won’t sacrifice our integrity for the sake of an easy win.
The stakes are higher than ever but business will not take a back seat.
The anti-business climate will be a test for Australia – do we capitulate to an agenda which punishes those already struggling on the margins, those looking for opportunity to enter the workforce or grow their business?
Or do we seize the moment to fight to back with facts, and campaign for a growing economy which continues to provide opportunities for Australians?
The choice is simple, we head down a path of low growth and low living standards or we continue the to pursue the policies that have given the record of economic growth and of opportunity.