A confidential memo from the president of Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) has revealed a direct link between the funding of the big business pro-Liberal IR advertising campaign and the Howard Government payments to business groups under its $40 million Employer Advisor Program (EAP) which gave money to the business groups to ‘promote’ Workchoices.

VECCI President Mr Richard Holyman states in the memo:

“… so much effort was put into supporting the workchoices package, we have to defend it now. As everyone is aware, we have had in excess of $600k in [Federal Government] grants to help implement workchoices.”

Some major business groups including the Australian Industry Group refused to fund the big business pro-workchoices advertising campaign because it was politically inappropriate.

The memo makes abundantly clear that big business are trying to heavy small business into this campaign and holding the taxpayer funded EAP as a clear reason why business should participate in this partisan political ad campaign.

The Howard Government’s EAP has so far committed over $40 million of government money for handouts for business groups to promote ‘workchoices’.

The government and business groups have serious questions to answer on this issue:

  • Can the government guarantee that no money from its $40 million EAP has gone to fund these ads?
  • Has the $40million EAP been used by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and/or the Prime Minister to put pressure on business to run this pro-Workchoices ad campaign?
  • ACTU Secretary Greg Combet, said:

    “This memo from the leader of the Victorian employer peak body clearly shows that business feels obliged to run TV ads supporting the Howard Government’s unfair IR laws because of the funding that business in turn has received from the government to promote the laws.

    “Both the federal government and the coalition of business groups running the pro-IR TV ads need to come clean on any relationship between the government funding of business and the TV ads, otherwise the impression will remain that these business ads have been funded by the backdoor by the government.

    “Around $40 million has been committed by the Howard Government to its ‘Employer Assistance Program’ and it appears that around $10 million has been committed by the business community to its TV advertising campaign.

    “Not surprisingly the evidence is that many in the business community, including important peak bodies like the Australian industry Group, are uncomfortable at this blatant political advertising. The report in today’s The Age newspaper demonstrates that the Victorian Employer Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been split over the issue”, said Mr Combet

    Employer Advisor Program business groups

  • ACT & Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
  • Air Conditioning and Mechanical Contractors’ Association of Australia Limited
  • Australian Business Limited  
  • Australian Chamber Alliance Pty Limited
  • Australian Hotels Association
  • Australian Furniture Removers Association  
  • Australian Industry Group
  • Australian Medical Association
  • Australian Mines & Metals Association and The Agribusiness Employers’ Federation
  • The Australian Newsagents’ Federation
  • Australian Retailers Association
  • Aged & Community Services of Australia
  • Aged & Community Services Association of NSW and ACT 
  • Business SA
  • Commerce Queensland
  • Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia
  • Clubs Australia
  • Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia Limited
  • Electrical and Communications Association
  • Employment Advocacy Solutions (EAS) Pty Limited   
  • Furnishing Industry Association of Australia (Management Services) Limited
  • Housing Industry Association
  • Hotel Motel and Accommodation Association
  • Local Government Association of Queensland
  • Master Builders’ Australia Inc.
  • Master Plumbers & Mechanical Services Association of Australian Government    
  • National Electrical & Communications Association
  • National Farmers Federation
  • National Retail Association 
  • Northern Territory Chamber of Commerce and Industry    
  • The Pharmacy Guild of Australia
  • Printing Industries Association of Australia
  • Recruitment & Consulting Services Association Limited
  • Restaurant and Catering Australia
  • SED Consulting Group
  • Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry 
  • Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce
  • Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce & Industry