The Business Council of Australia’s ‘commitment’ to invest more if company tax cuts are passed is an embarrassment

BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie. (Greg Wood / AFP / Getty Images)

Senator Derryn Hinch had the most succinct and matter-of-fact reaction to yesterday’s statement from the Business Council of Australia in which CEOs said they “commit to invest” if the government’s company tax cuts are passed.

Hinch said it was “very Kumbayah, you know, we’ll do this and we’ll do that, but it didn’t guarantee anything.”

He’s right. Just look at it:

We believe that a reduction in the corporate tax rate, as proposed through the Government’s enterprise tax plan, is urgent and vital to keep Australia competitive.

If the Senate passes this important legislation we, as some of the nation’s largest employers, commit to invest more in Australia which will lead to employing more Australians and therefore stronger wage growth as the tax cut takes effect.

They go on to say: nothing else.

It’s signed by Andrew Mackenzie (BHP), Catherine Tanna (Energy Australia), Fortescue’s Twiggy Forrest, Brent Eastwood (JBS), Tim Reed (MYOB), Frank Calabria (Origin Energy), Alan Joyce, Rob Scott (Wesfarmers), Peter Coleman (Woodside), Brad Banducci (Woolies), and Jennifer Westacott and Grant King, CEO and president of the BCA respectively.

Now does anyone think for a second that if a pitch this light on detail would pass muster to any of these executives in their day jobs? Buckley’s. You wouldn’t even get an email back. If it was a meeting, it would be over in 60 seconds.

This comes just weeks after Westacott promised to “up the ante” in the BCA’s campaign to get the Senate to pass the Coalition’s tax cuts.

Is this it?

There is a sound case to be made that a reduction in the corporate tax rate will drive Australian competitiveness, investment, and job creation. The BCA executives are extremely well placed to spell out the implications of tax cuts with concrete details on how it would increase investment and wages, over this approach, which amounts to the lobbying equivalent of a pinkie promise.

Hinch is right to call it out. “There’s no contract here,” he said. “Read the wording of it, it’s ‘we intend, we do this, we do that’. I’m not going to suddenly vote for something and then in three months’ time somebody comes to me and says, ‘well, they didn’t do it. Why did you vote for them when they didn’t do it?'”

Wild idea: these executives can start applying the same basic levels of detail and reason in their policy campaigning efforts as they’d expect to see behind major business decisions.

This is an opinion column. The views expressed are those of the author.