Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Business lobby sink boot into unseen budget in strategic broadside

By Business editor Peter Ryan

Even though much of tonight's Budget has already been leaked, Australia's business lobby groups seem convinced Wayne Swan's cupboard will be bare.

The big players have gone on a on a major offensive against the government, describing the budget process as "chaotic".

The frustration has boiled over with the big four business lobby groups launching a carefully planned broadside against the government well before the Budget fine print is out.

The strategy by the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Minerals Council represents a new war footing from the big end of town.

The big players normally restrict themselves to traditional lobbying tactics - issuing discussion papers, commissioning reports, sending out media statements and maintaining a constant presence in the Canberra press gallery.

Then of course there are pre-Budget submissions delivered in the weeks and months before the Budget which is accompanied by targeted briefings to journalists with influence.

That is normally the extent of the diplomatic prodding in addition to the odd diplomatic foot in the door.

The "powder is kept dry" on any criticism - or praise - until the fine print has been examined.

Not this time.

Rather than wait, the business lobby is ramping up its complaints about a lack of genuine process and consultation as concerns deepen about the credibility of the Budget.

Today's Budget will be the culmination of significant tensions about the consultation style of the Rudd and Gillard governments.

Business is still seething from the legacy of the super mining profits tax, the carbon tax and more recently the funding model for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Business Council for example is worried that an increase to the Medicare levy without a cost benefit analysis could set the NDIS up to fail.

On the dollars and cents from, the business lobby knows there will be few - if any - sweeteners. A cut to the corporate tax rate seems off the table, although business remains concerned about how it will fund the recent increase to employer superannuation.

But at the very least, business groups are looking credible budget assumptions, an end to ad hoc changes and realistic plans for spending rather than timing shifts that could see spending pushed out over ten years.

Which underscores the business lobby's view about the government reputation and credibility which was damaged by the dumping of the surplus commitment a week before Christmas last year.

In the leadup to the dumping of the surplus commitment, business groups have warned that while they wanted to see a surplus, it didn't have to be immediate and shouldn't come at any cost.

Once again, there is unusual unity from the big four business groups.

But there's also solidarity from the government today, with senior ministers showing there's no love lost, describing business leaders as self-interested whingers and moaners who have ignored the government's reforms.

It's hard to find an olive branch amid the spin from both sides.

But it's clear that any concession to business in today's Budget papers seems unlikely.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What's your view on this?