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Business Council sets agenda for biggest corporations

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Nick G.          13 April 2019

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) released a report on April 11 called “A Plan for A Stronger Australia”.

The immediate question is “stronger for whom”?  To answer that, we need to know for whom the BCA speaks.

The BCA has 140 member corporations.  They are the largest corporations operating in Australia and many of them are foreign-owned multinationals.  They also include some of the wealthiest law firms, financial services corporations and transport and retail giants.

To try and disguise their elite ruling class credentials, BCA pulls a smoke and mirrors stunt, saying in its Plan that “A business is a group of people. It is the customers, the mums and dads who own a small business, the Australians working in a business, the shareholders, the suppliers, and the communities in which they operate.”

They claim that the Plan is based on an extensive consultation wit the Australian people.  They acknowledge that Australians are increasingly “worried about their future” and summarise those anxieties under four headings. Australians, they say, want to:

► increase their wages
► lower electricity bills and living costs
► increase their skills and training to keep working as technology changes workplaces
► reduce congestion in the cities.

However, its proposals are the same old same old that we continually hear from the capitalist class.  They want to lower company tax, increase “opportunities for private investment in public infrastructure”, speed up approval processes for major projects, “Lock in enterprise bargaining agreements between workers and employers at the workplace level as the centrepiece of the workplace relations system”, and “Scrap unnecessary subsidies for taxpayer-funded green schemes.”

The proposal to lower company tax is hardly credible when hundreds of the largest corporations operating in Australia pay no tax at all.  Of the 140 member corporations of the BCA, 33 are listed in the latest Tax Office Report of Entity Tax Information (2016/17) as having paid no tax at all. Zero!  Companies such as:

• Energy Australia (income $6.3bn)
• EXXON Mobil (income $8.3bn)
• Graincorp (income $4.6 bn)
• Lendlease (income $9.1bn)
• Origin Energy (income $14.8bn)
• Santos (income $3.7 bn)
• Shell Energy Holdings (income $5.4bn)

…and so the list goes on. Some of these companies have been on the list for the four years that it has been published.

And the list of non-tax-paying companies doesn’t include those BCA members that use creative accounting to evade or minimize their tax obligations. Otherwise, how could Australian Unity Ltd pay only $915,000 tax on an income of $1.7bn?

Nor does it include BCA members below the threshold used by the ATO for reporting corporate tax information: it does not bother with public and foreign-owned entities with a total income less than $100m, or Australian-owned resident private companies with an income less than $200m.

In other words, there may well be more than 33 BCA member corporations that pay no tax at all.

And pious utterances acknowledging Australian people’s difficulty in paying for home energy is hard to take from an organization whose members include giant energy companies that pay no tax whilst reaping in obscene profits from the pockets of Australia householders!
The BCA has extraordinary influence. The capitalist mass media dutifully reports its policy proposals and runs articles and editorials based on its media releases in a way that is completely denied to unions and community organisations representing the people.

Its passing nod in the direction of people’s demands for higher wages is to echo the familiar refrain of the capitalists that “To have faster wages growth, Australia must drive investment, competitiveness and productivity.” 

The BCA consciously sets itself and its members against the ACTU’s Change the Rules campaign, arguing that employers must have “the ability to adjust and change their operations quickly” and that “Increasing wages cannot be a quick fix and cost someone else a job or force consumers to pay higher prices.”

Hence it supports keeping enterprise bargaining at the individual workplace level because “One-size-fits-all agreements ignore that workers have different needs.” 

It is precisely industry-wide agreements that are one of the aims of the Change the Rules campaign.

There is some fluff in the Plan about strengthening TAFE and increasing the Newstart Allowance and a token nod in the direction of “initiatives to build economic opportunities in Indigenous communities.”  We know, thanks to Lindy Nolan, what that last one means (Lindy Nolan, “Driving Disunity: The Business Council of Australia Against Aboriginal Community”, Spirit of Eureka, 2017).

Against the BCA, we the people have our own demands, our own plan.  We have our own independent agenda with demands for democratic and workplace rights that the BCA will never support.

They include seizing the assets of foreign capital in Australia and socializing their operations.

They go beyond Changing the Rules, which we support, to changing the system, for which we plan.

Out with the BCA!
For independence and socialism!


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