Mar 5, 2018

Ken Henry is wrong. It’s not about corporations being nicer.

Relying on business to be nice to the community won't solve the problems of neoliberalism: the power imbalance that has favoured business over consumers and workers needs to be fixed.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

There's now a clear split in the senior ranks of the business community. It's between those who have worked out that big business is loathed by many in the community, and those who either don't understand that or don't care, and continue to push a self-interested agenda around attacking workers and cutting company taxes.

The Business Council is the leading example of the latter. They believe that if they repeat that they need tax cuts often enough, and donate enough money to politicians, eventually they'll get a tax windfall regardless of how the community views business. Indeed, on that score, the problem is with the community, not with business -- it is the community that is wrong about business, and needs to understand that what's good for business is good for Australia. To this end, the BCA announced today it had joined with News Corp to run a propaganda campaign on Sky News called Strong Australia, "a new national platform for discussing the pressing issues facing Australians... to discuss practical and actionable solutions." Australians, the BCA's Jennifer Westacott said, "aren’t interested in the bickering that dominates our political landscape" so the BCA-News campaign "will help identify the practical, pragmatic solutions we need."

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

15 thoughts on “Ken Henry is wrong. It’s not about corporations being nicer.

  1. paddy

    Good work on the mea culpa Bernard.
    It adds significant weight to what is already a good piece.
    The real bottom line of *any* economic system worthy of support, is how does it measure up when you look at the distribution of wealth?
    The current system is clearly broken and whatever replaces it must be judged on how it winds back the ever increasing levels of inequality.

  2. Wayne Cusick

    Ken Henry’s remarks included the obligatory reason for lowering company tax – to be competitive with other nations.

    Surely that is the worst argument for company tax cuts, since the inevitable result of such thinking is 0 tax for companies as countries bid to out-do each other?

  3. Alex

    So Ken Henry claims that those in business who get paid tens of millions of dollars a year are only doing their job for the benefit of Australian workers, and not out of self interest. They are only almost volunteering their time for us, the struggling workers. What darlings – what bullshit.
    That argument would be a lot more convincing if they significantly reduced their salaries. There is plenty of research that shows that the higher remunerated display narcissistic tendencies so they probably do believe that argument.

  4. old greybearded one

    Rarely have I agreed with you so completely BK. I am in my 60s when the modestly paid CEOs proudly said “We have put on a thousand new staff this year (or similar)”. Now, the highly paid or obscenely paid proudly announce, “We have cut our workforce by 10%” or whatever. The present day CEOs and chairman and the BCA and MCA are little more than a mob of rent seeking robber barons who have stolen the common wealth and captured the government (many of whom are of the same ilk).

  5. brian crooks

    Ken Henry, like many before him has sold his integrity to the establishment, once a very principled man he`s now joined a long queue of self interested character less individuals on offer for the highest price to sell the corporate Australia trickle down message, telling voters to just take their medicine no matters how bad it tastes, its good for you they say, just force it down, we know best, and the dumb bastards just pick up the spoon and swallow.

  6. johnnhogan

    Thanks Bernard. I only recently subscribed but I’ve generally liked or taken interest in your discussions with Steve Austin over the years.
    The older I get, the more I find myself simplifying things and looking to the big picture. We’ve gotten here because the people who achieved the ability to control did so. They came, they took, they have. In the end, only the actions of other people taking what they want or need will impact. Centre-to-left governments will come and go, doing what they can about these imbalances. It won’t work. Things will only change significantly when people actually get together and force the issue. It’s the only language those people Bernard is talking about understand. And it needs to happen soon. The longer it takes for the correction to occur, the uglier and more generally devastating it will be. As in, bourgeois hanging from street poles ugly.
    There is some great reporting on wealth innequality that went around a few weeks ago. Was it here on Crikey? About how it peaked prior to WW1 and was at it’s lowest in the US in the late 1970s. And also how the black plague made labour valuable and land cheap. It made me think about the looming impact of the demographic changes.

  7. Dog's Breakfast

    “The real challenge, …….., is not the attitude of business, but the power of business.”

    In a nutshell BK, and this can only be fought at the donations box. Donations from big business must be stopped from being given to one party or the other. Until that happens, reforms, like taking pokies out of pubs, can never get up. Money speaks, very loudly.

    I offer a solution. Businesses can donate to the politics, but only into a central fund that is then distributed say, via the same method as electoral funding laws, per first votes received. No direct funding to parties, no hiring out Ministers to speak to the big end of town.

    I don’t mind politicians talking to the big end of town, the problem starts when there is an expectation or a hope of a donation that follows. That has to be banned, outright. All the power rests with the corporations in the current environment, it’s a simulacrum of a democracy.

    1. Djbekka

      Donations are, indeed, an issue and I note that the so-called ‘reform’ of the electoral donations rules doesn’t regulate business donations. These range from cash from subsidiaries of transnational corporations, or business peak bodies to local tree clearing graziers. Instead it is aimed at shutting down advocacy from those offering services to the least able to buy services, those calling attention to the environmental impact of assorted enterprises, or those who run information and lobbying campaigns without ‘benefit’ of the disciple of being members of a political party.
      All in the name of protecting the national interest or national security. Let’s just have some close to real time reporting of donations to political parties, ok, add ‘foreign’ donations, but leave it at that. Having and expressing an opinion about national policy that doesn’t support neo-liberalism is not treason – it is part of a sensible debate.

  8. klewso

    Reckon Westacott Inc; realise that all those people beyond that line of share-holders are “people” – on stagnant wages in spite of increasing corporate profits?
    And fancy picking anti-union/worker/progressive Rupert and his Limited News, to jump into bed with, to do their PR laundry?

  9. Flynn Thompson

    They’re gonna have to do a hell of a lot better than those banking association ads I see on twitter saying…oh but the banks are actually yours because your super funds buy their shares. Business is trying to get tax cuts on the cheap, but it’s time for them to pay up. Demand for goods and services is the elephant in the room.

    1. Arky

      Those ads get the blood boiling, don’t they?

      “We’re ripping you off, but a tiny percentage goes to you while most of it goes to our institutional shareholders so that totally means you’re benefitting from us ripping you off!”

      Such an insult to the nation’s intelligence, and I say that as someone who often takes a dim view of the nation’s intelligence (I mean, the nation elected TONY ABBOTT). Even that intelligence is insulted by those bank ads.

  10. Mike Smith

    Business with a smiley face: I’m thinking coulrophobia.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details