Members of the Business Council of Australia should demand the council be more transparent when dealing with government, according to Australia’s peak body for small businesses.
Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany the BCA needs to stop presenting “secret” information to government and conduct policy debates out in the open.
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“Secrets cause questions,” Strong says.
“It’s concerning for my members as to why anybody would keep anything a secret.
“The only reason you’d make it secret is you know you can’t maintain the argument in public. It I went out there in secret and made things up, my members would be all over me. I’m looking to the members of the BCA to not support secrecy and behind-closed-door-deals.”
Strong’s comments come after it was revealed the BCA sent a confidential, eight-page letter to cabinet.
The letter called on the federal government not to introduce an effects test and claimed innovations such as the iPhone would “be at risk” should there be an overhaul of Australian competition law.
This is despite the United States having an effects test, with Australia and New Zealand the only two developed nations in the world not to have an effects test.
Strong is calling on all business groups to have more open, transparent dealings with politicians.
“Secret behaviours and covert manipulation by the most powerful will always create concern, fear and a lack of trust in the decision-making process,” Strong says.
“That is something that the BCA has now created, an environment that doesn’t help anyone. We have great faith and trust in [Small Business Minister] Kelly O’Dwyer and the Treasurer but that faith should not be undermined by the secrecy of others.”
Strong says secret government briefings also give politicians a “bad name” and does nothing to instil confidence in voters and small business owners.
“They’re contributing to a lack of faith in politicians,” Strong says.
“Politicians get enough attacks as it is. This is really disappointing, all the secrecy. It’s classic 18th century big business behaviour.”
SmartCompany contacted the Business Council of Australia but they declined to comment.