Government has "whiff of illegitimacy" about it

Ziggy Switkowski

Another attack on the government, this time from business leaders criticising the “thought bubble” policies currently being pursued:

SOME of the nation’s most respected business leaders have launched a fresh and damaging attack on the Gillard government, with one warning there is a “whiff of illegitimacy” about its most contentious policies.

Stepping up the anti-government rhetoric of recent weeks from big business, former Telstra chief executive and Suncorp chairman-elect Ziggy Switkowski said yesterday the bungled announcements of the National Broadband Network and the carbon tax were destined to divide the country.

“There is a whiff of illegitimacy about some of the key events in the life of this and the previous government,” Dr Switkowski told The Australian & Deutsche Bank Business Leaders Forum in Melbourne yesterday.

“The NBN was announced as reality at the stage where it was still a thought bubble, and it became public policy thereafter. It was not a very good beginning for what will be seen by many as one of the more substantive policy decisions of the government.”

Transurban chairman and Westpac chairman-elect Lindsay Maxsted told the forum Julia Gillard’s policies were focused only on short-term political gain and winning votes, as opposed to what was in the long-term interests of the nation.

“It’s probably the most difficult relationship I’ve seen between business and a federal government,” Mr Maxsted said.

Dr Switkowski and Mr Maxsted join a growing number of business leaders who have attacked the government in recent weeks, including casino owner James Packer and mining magnates Andrew Forrest, Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart. Other senior chairmen and directors have warned of concerns about higher levels of sovereign risk being expressed by foreign investors about Australia.

They cite the carbon and mining taxes, re-regulation of the labour market, the skills shortage and lack of vital infrastructure as weighing substantially on productivity and growth.

Business leaders have claimed the carbon tax will damage industry competitiveness and impose additional costs at a time when firms are battling a high dollar, volatile sharemarket and weak consumer sentiment. (source)

As Jennifer Hewett comments:

THE business community has virtually given up on the Gillard government. And now it’s out in the open. The frank criticism of Labor across the board by a range of very senior business leaders yesterday was as remarkable as it was rare.

Strong disagreements between business and government are usually kept relatively discreet.

Occasionally, a particularly contested issue may force concerns on to the national agenda, usually leading to a compromise of sorts. Witness the mining industry’s determined assault on the resource super-profits tax last year.

But in general, big business knows that picking a public fight with the government doesn’t offer good odds. It’s too risky for business. Just look at Telstra. And the public tends to be rightly suspicious that a company’s self-interest doesn’t equate to the national interest.

What yesterday’s comments show is that the private and broad-based frustration with this Labor government is now so intense that business leaders feel they have a responsibility to explain how much is going wrong in Canberra. And why everyone should be worried about the impact and unintended consequences of policies that are not properly thought through. (source)

And the quote of the day from Switkowski:

“Why is this country’s energy policy being defined by the Greens? How can that be?”

An excellent question, to which there is no obvious answer.

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