Towards the end of Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, it was clear that the business community wasn’t happy with him. The relationship was so dire that they’d even convened a summit on reform in Canberra from which politicians were banned, so it was no great surprise that Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension to the top job was met with relief from business leaders.

But that relief has turned into something disconcertingly close to fawning.

In a speech delivered at the Business Council of Australia’s annual dinner last night, president Catherine Livingstone, who is also the chairwoman of Telstra, said the Prime Minister had introduced a new sense of optimism in the country.

“You have given us the permission to have conversations about things that matter to people, and helped, through your own example, to make those conversations positive,” she said.

Turnbull, in having responsibility for the National Broadband Network, had significant experience in complex systems, the chair of the company that was partly responsible for making the NBN difficult to implement told the Prime Minister. She also said Turnbull had “extraordinary credentials” for launching an innovation agenda in government.

As with much of his prime ministership so far, it’s very hard to know if this is true until Turnbull announces some substantial policies. With the Prime Minister saying “everything is on the table” with tax reform, and with the Business Council pushing for a cut in the company tax rate, we expect to see many more interest groups buttering up our Prime Minister in the coming months.

Turnbull should pay heed to the Latin phrase “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes“, or “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. He should be wary of business councils speaking fondly of him.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey