Labor senator slams government Commission of Audit as serving big business interests

A New South Wales federal Labor senator has lashed the Coalition government’s Commission of Audit, labelling it a “Trojan horse for the Business Council of Australia’s corporate backers”.

Senator Sam Dastyari said in an article for The Australian Financial Reviewthat because the commission is chaired by BCA president Tony Shepherd and BCA director of policy Peter Crone, it must serve their interests.

“The BCA is one of the most powerful, well-funded and best-organised lobby groups in Australia. Its board is a who’s who of Australian big business,” he writes.

“It advocates on behalf of the most influential companies in Australia and does a fantastic job of it. Its members are the right people to put forward the case for Australian big business, but big business brings its own self-interest.”

However, Small Business Minister Bruce Billson and the chief executive of the Restaurant and Catering Association of Australia, John Hart, told SmartCompany the Labor senator is just throwing stones at the opposition.

“As a nation, we should be celebrating the fact we have been able to attract such a well-qualified person to head the commission of audit instead of political point scoring,” Billson says.

“It’s amazing the amount of rubbish Labor has got to say in an effort to cut down a much-needed piece of work because they fell asleep at the wheel.”

The commission was first announced on October 22 last year and was established by the Liberal Party as an “independent body to review and report on the performance, functions and roles of the Commonwealth government”.

The first phase of review is due at the end of the month, with the second phase scheduled to be completed by March 2014.

Hart says the commission needs to have a broad view as it examines the efficiency of the government.

“It’s just absolute rot, the Commission of Audit is looking particularly at the big picture issues, focusing on finances and the role of government to government relationships on a federal, state and local level,” he says.

“By its very nature it will be looking at pretty big strokes because of its timeline. Those issues of intergovernmental relationships don’t have the bounds of big and small business. It fits in the context of all business.”

Dastyari argues the commission’s report could read like a “wish list” for the BCA and asks Australians to consider who is likely to benefit from the recommendations of the commission.

“The questions we need to ask are: where will the gains be distributed? Who will be the beneficiaries? Will wage and salary earners secure fair returns for their labour?” he says.

“This government has handed a worrying amount of influence to an organisation that has already made it very clear where it stands.”

Billson says this is an example of Labor hysteria.

“I don’t know how Labor can draw conclusions on the commission of audit when it hasn’t even reported,” he says.

“Despite Labor hysteria, we won’t stray from the course of getting the country back on track in a calm and methodical manner following proper process.”

Hart says this is an example of Labor looking for a political advantage.

“Tony Shepherd is a very intelligent and capable person and I’m sure he can get his head around the issues of both the Commission of Audit and the BCA,” he says.

“The process is all open and necessary. Submissions are being reviewed from all levels of business and society. Yes it will cast a picture in very broad strokes, but that’s what is necessary at this point.”

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