BCA president Catherine Livingstone says 'populist anti-business sentiment' could have 'devastating' results

The BCA wants Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to stick to his plan to cut the company tax rate for big business. Photo: Andrew Meares
The BCA wants Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to stick to his plan to cut the company tax rate for big business. Photo: Andrew Meares
Businesses need consistency and continuity of policy, outgoing president Catherine Livingstone will say. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Businesses need consistency and continuity of policy, outgoing president Catherine Livingstone will say. Photo: Christopher Pearce

"Populist anti-business sentiment" that is restricting the ability of the federal government to pass policy could have "devastating" consequences, according to outgoing Business Council of Australia president Catherine Livingstone.

"Businesses need consistency and continuity of policy," she will say in a speech on Thursday night at BCA's annual dinner, her last after 2½ years as president.

"This notion that you can have a vibrant economy, driving higher wages and better living standards, without healthy and globally competitive private enterprise is very troubling.

"A populist anti-business sentiment militates against a prosperity objective, and could have devastating long-term consequences."

Ms Livingstone will tell Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who will attend the dinner, that "we do recognise the challenges you face, and will continue to work with you on purposeful policies for a prosperous Australia".

Trump's tax agenda means we should cut too

"We have strongly and publicly supported the government on this policy because it is right for the country," she will say.

Earlier, in an interview with ABC radio, Ms Livingstone said US president-elect Donald Trump's proposed tax changes, including a plan to lower the US company tax rate to 15 per cent, meant reducing Australian company tax was more important than ever.

"That makes the comparison with our tax rate even more stark," she said. "It absolutely heightens the urgency for us to take our tax rates down."

"If you think about Australia as a net importer of capital and you suddenly get a reduction in the US of a tax rate which then pulls capital back into the US, it will pull it out of countries like Australia and make Australia even less favourable as an investment destination. And our prosperity relies on investment."

She said companies were also struggling with a digital-first model that required "enormous culture change in organisations".

"There's more unlearning that has to be done than learning in organisations now and that, as I say, is very challenging," Ms Livingstone will say.

"So that's why trying to reflect that challenge and that priority in the longer-term targets of executives is exercising boards' minds generally."

Big business urged to sign up to tax code

Ms Livingstone will also say in her speech that the BCA has set a goal for all its big business members to sign up to the federal government's voluntary tax code.

The code, introduced in the federal budget, was designed to increase transparency of multinational tax affairs, but has been criticised by groups like the Tax Justice Network that have called for it to be abandoned.

Ms Livingstone will say it will be a chance "to demonstrate clearly that our members are paying their fair share of tax".

"It's early days, but 41 of the 110 eligible member companies have signed up to the code so far, and many more members have started the process of adoption.

"Those members who have already signed account for more than one third of total company tax paid."

This story BCA president Catherine Livingstone says 'populist anti-business sentiment' could have 'devastating' results first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.