A mining industry-style advertising campaign launched by big business to help sell the Turnbull government’s company tax cuts would be “inconceivably irrational”, a veteran Liberal Party strategist says.
It comes as Treasurer Scott Morrison calls on big business to “collectively and urgently” do more to communicate the value of reducing the corporate tax rate.
“This task cannot be pursued by the government in isolation,” he told a conference in Sydney on Thursday.
“Business, particularly large business, has a critical role to play in demonstrating to the Australian people that as their business grows, their employees will benefit.”
The government recently passed tax cuts for companies with an annual turnover of $50 million, but the Senate has so far rejected its entire $48 billion plan, which would extend the cuts to big business.
“I have raised consistently with large business representatives the need to address the broader collective-reputation issues large businesses have with the Australian public that are being cynically exploited by an opportunistic Labor Party,” Mr Morrison said.
It is unclear whether the business lobby will heed Mr Morrison’s call, or perhaps even consider a television advertising campaign, as waged by the mining industry against the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.
But veteran political strategist Toby Ralph said such a move would be madness.
“In the inconceivably irrational circumstance that big business ran an ad campaign, the proposition would have to be that tax cuts lead to jobs and growth,” he told The New Daily.
“The upside they need to prove will take years to land, and can’t credibly be shown today.”
Mr Ralph, who has worked on a number of Liberal Party campaigns, said a big business campaign would be hampered by the public’s concerns over multinational tax avoidance.
“The trouble is that when you run a campaign the authors needs credibility,” he said.
“Irrespective of message, a campaign from business would divide. Those prone to believe would; those prone to mistrust would deepen their cynicism, while the disengaged middle would yawn and change channels.”
Instead, he expected lobby groups and “the odd CEO” to “trot out a few platitudes, which will “go straight to an unread column on page ninety-seven”.
How it might work
Dr Andrew Hughes, a political advertising expert at ANU, was more optimistic about the potential of a campaign waged by big business.
Advertisements focused on the personal stories of workers, similar to the mining industry’s ‘This is our story’ campaign, could bear fruit, but there was a risk it could also “backfire” with an already sceptical public.
“They’d want to flip it around and make it about people who work in these big organisations, who, without tax cuts, might not have job opportunities,” Dr Hughes said.
“They need to make it someone we can all relate to and connect to. The truckie, the office admin person, the apprentice, the person who’s worked there for 35 years and really loves their job.”
“They could also talk about how they’d be putting money back into the community through growth, so it’s not just about a tax cut.”
“The moment you put a spokesperson out who is a former CEO, the first thing people are going to think is, you’re on millions of dollars a year, why do you need more money?”
Meanwhile, the union movement has indicated it will campaign against the government’s entire tax plan, placing pressure Labor to reverse the cuts enacted for small and medium-sized businesses.
The opposition has said it will reveal its position after the budget.