The power of a small group of big businesses is getting in the way of important economic reforms, according to Labor Senator Sam Dastyari and the peak body representing Australian small businesses.
Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany this morning the federal government will never forge ahead with serious economic reform if it bows to the wishes of a few big companies.
The comments echo those made by Dastyari on Friday night. Speaking at a Canberra pub, the first-term senator lashed out at the big banks and major supermarkets for having “unprecedented concentration of corporate influence” in Australia, according to Fairfax.
The comments come at a time when the government is debating whether or not to push through with several major economic reforms, such as an increase to the goods and services tax or introducing an effects test into competition law.
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“The entire political debate has become so dominated by the interests that they’re pushing, and the agenda they’re pushing,” Dastyari said.
“And [we’ve] ended up with this complete crowding out of a proper political discourse in this country because there is one sectional interest that is so much louder than every other voice out there combined.”
The senator said while he has been involved in politics since he was 16, nothing could prepare him for witnessing the “brutal and aggressive” power the biggest companies in Australia wield firsthand.
The 10 corporates with the most influence over economic progress, according to Dastyari, are the four big banks, the two major supermarkets, Telstra and the likes of mining giants Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals.
Big businesses “control” parliament, but so do big unions
Strong told SmartCompany this morning Dastyari’s comments are right on the mark.
However, Strong says the Labor senator failed to mention that big unions such as the Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees’ Association also wield a huge amount of power within the halls of parliament.
“If he misses that point, he’s not going to make any change at all,” Strong says.
“He needs to look at who controls the workplace relations system and vocational education and training.
“It’s an extreme crisis at the moment and in our opinion that crisis has been driven by left and right wing people associated with big business and big unions.”
Strong says the delay in implementing an effects test to protect small businesses from unfair competition is a prime example of how the few have “control over the many to the detriment of our economy”.
“The other area is taxation,” he says.
“That has become a totally confused debate and it shouldn’t be. When you look at who they [politicians] consult, it’s Wesfarmers and BHP Billiton. What makes them experts in tax?”
Strong says it’s time politicians from all sides take a step back from hard-line ideology for the benefit of the economy.
“It’s about who really runs Australia,” he says.