What Abbott said and the media heard

Having actually listened to the same speech that is being reported in the paper today, I am not entirely sure those who are doing the reporting quite cottoned on to what the Prime Minister was getting at. The AFR, for example, starts its story on Tony’s speech thus:

Business leaders have told Tony Abbott to sell his own budget, spurning the Prime Minister’s invitation to be more vocal in backing the government’s agenda.

A business association will never back a political party, or will do so only at great risk to its own future. The ALP is little more than the union agenda in a Parliamentary setting, but business and business associations have to work with everyone and in doing so stay politically neutral. Even I, in my occasional days in the media representing business, could criticise Paul Keating and live to tell the tale because, but only because, I never strayed outside our own council-determined policy position.

If I may therefore interpolate, what the PM was saying was that if business wanted to see some of those things that business would like to see – a smaller deficit, lower taxes, a more open industrial relations environment, improved trade relations, or anything else where its own agenda happens to coincide with the Government’s – then it should start pushing these issues harder. The point is not to back the government’s agenda but to back its own, and make it known that there are certain things that business wants the Senate to pass because it will make Australia a better place.

And as just one place where business might find itself assisted by the Government’s agenda, there was another story in the AFR today, No pay rises without efficiency talks, under planned law, which in the paper was titled, “Coalition moves to keep lid on strikes”. It begins:

Ways to make workplaces more efficient would have to be discussed as part of every wage negotiation under a law proposed by the Abbott government.

I promise you this. No other conceivable government in this country will be trying to get such a change made. If business doesn’t back a government which will make such changes they may find themselves dealing with a government that under no circumstances ever will. They need only support the policy but they can do it by whispering it to each other where no one can hear or can say so in public where their support might count.

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