By Ben Wilson
Labor Party leader Bill Shorten’s announcement that a government led by him will repeal existing company tax cuts to companies turning over between $10 and $50 million a year caused an immediate reaction. He has also committed to repeal the tax on companies turning over more than $50, if this gets through, as the Turnbull government intends. And he has added, that income tax cuts that see most of the benefit being handed over to the richest Australians will also go.
Shorten said: “Fundamentally you’ve got to look at the priorities,” and “I just don’t agree with Mr Turnbull that the four big banks deserve $17 billion in tax cuts over the next ten years. I would rather see $17 billion put back into our schools.
“I don’t agree with Turnbull that multinationals should get a tax cut, yet we are carrying out cuts to our hospitals and healthcare system. It is all a matter of values. Now, he’s entitled to his opinion. He’s made it very clear that he’s for the top end of town and I’m for hospitals and school funding.”
Some members of the Labor caucus might have their noses slightly out of joint over not having been consulted beforehand. But there is good reason to believe that many Australians are quite happy with it.
In contrast, the big end of town is really angry and aims to put a stop to it.
The Business Council of Australia lashed out immediately. It’s chief executive, Jennifer Westacott exploded on media, insisting that this meant an increase for business. “If you stand for workers, you have to stand for business because we employ millions of them.” She said.
None of this is true of course. But the words have a purpose. They represent a fight back using two themes. The main one is to convince the small business sector that it is in the firing line, despite the fact that it’s not true. Companies turning over less between $2 and $10 million a year, will keep their cuts. The other is that the road to more jobs, and failure to do this means fewer jobs. This is the trickle-down effect using other words. But we have already seen that the application of this has worked the other way around.
The Business Council of Australia does not operate in the interests of the economy and Australian society, but in the interests of the big corporation that are its members. The same ones that have been involved in tax dodging and money laundering among them. Nor does it operate in the interests of small business. It’s pretending to defend small business is a cynical exercise, to create a smokescreen and confuse public opinion.
Other business organisations have been brought into the Council’s declaration of war.
Community opposition to the company and income tax changes is being silenced, and the Murdoch and Fairfax media empires are having a lot to do with it. They have a vested interest in the issue and have enthusiastically taken up the themes put forward by Westacott.
Headlines are screaming. One of the big ones is the Australian’s “Aussies blast Shorten for kick in the guts.” It is typical Murdoch style of whipping up a story based on falsehood, and used to promote a political position.
Fairfax is gentler, and has concentrated suggesting that this is an attack on small business and that this might cost Labor the next election. Both are in the business of manufacturing public opinion.
Interviews are staged, manipulated and misrepresented. A case in point is the Brian Carlton Ross Hart interview on Tasmanian radio. This is presented as the story. The real story, which is the merits or demerits company tax repeal is buried.
The Sydney Morning Herald published a story featuring someone referred to as small business owner and the spokesperson from the office of the government established Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, and using this to infer a one way and inaccurate interpretation of public opinion. Other articles have taken the same tone.
Divisions within the Labor Party are being stoked and exaggerated. Shorten is being pressured into backing down. If he sticks to his guns, the pressure will mount and big money will be channeled into cynically manufacturing fear, and trying to turn this is into an electoral liability for Labor.
The other side of this, is that that Shorten has the opportunity to rally a movement that is energised and has the capacity to seize the initiative and succeed.
If he backs down, his standing and that of the Labor Party will suffer.
What we need to consider is whether we will accept being silenced, or be prepared to raise our voices.