The love-in between Malcolm Turnbull's Coalition government and the big business end of town began intensely but the honeymoon was over way too soon.
While treasurer Scott Morrison is said to be portraying the fallout over the GST as a tiff, the reality is that there has been plenty of bruising sustained by both camps.
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Malcolm Turnbull's tax task
With the GST apparently off the table, the Prime Minister is forced to look elsewhere to deliver substantial reform, argues Mark Kenny.
What started off as a disagreement around tax reform has widened into a debate/attack on the effectiveness of big businesses' central lobby group, the Business Council of Australia's effectiveness as a means to get a stake in the debate around economic reform and enhance the interests of its members.
High profile Liberal party royal Michael Kroger flew out of the gates last week calling for the chief executive of the BCA Jennifer Westacott to be dumped on the back of mishandling its lobbying to increase the GST to 15 per cent.
Paul Keating jumped on board in support of Kroger and this week former treasurer and the architect of the original GST, Peter Costello has poured scorn on the BCA's economic argument around tax and said that the politics of its proposal was even worse. His argument is that the the benefits of increasing this tax – especially after the government pays to offset lower income earners relegates its effectiveness to a bit of a fizz.
Kroger comes at it from a slightly different angle. Basically he believes that the BCA is a bit of a lame duck that has no clout and doesn't represent or look after the interests of "capital" in the same way as the union movement moves the dial for labour.
Word is that he is telling anyone that will listen (including the BCA board) that the large foreign corporate members and service providers like accounting firms shouldn't be members of this organisation as they have different agendas, interests or a conflict of interest.
His advice to the BCA is to take a leaf out of Mineral Council of Australia's manual on how to lobby. The Minerals Council worked with devastating effectiveness to kill off the mining super tax. It managed to convince the average man in the street that the mining industry was both responsible for Australia's prosperity and would be killed off if a super profits tax was imposed.
As for a campaign to promote an increase in the GST from 10 to 15 per cent, the view from BCA detractors is that it was too little too late.
And they are incensed that the BCA has decided to soldier on with its GST push and criticise the government for becoming victim to a "dysfunction politics" on tax.
Right now it feels like the relationship between the BCA and Turnbull's government has moved a long way from the glowing, almost gushing commentary from BCA chairman Catherine Livingstone in her annual-dinner speech in November last year.
There was a near palpable sense of excitement and relief from Livingstone that the removal of Tony Abbott and the appointment of Turnbull would usher in an opportunity for the BCA to get itself heard as part of a national debate around economic reform – including important issues around tax reform and innovation.
Here is what she said three months ago:
"Prime Minister, there is a new sense of optimism in this room, and around the country.
"In just seven weeks in the role, the impact you have had on national sentiment is almost unparalleled.
"You have given us the permission to have conversations about things that matter to people, and helped, through your own example, to make those conversations positive."
Here is what Westacott wrote in The Australian Financial Review in the last week: "tax reform runs the risk of being the latest victim of Australia's dysfunctional political debate".
It looks like the conversation was a one-way affair.
Clearly the BCA is underwhelmed by the manner in which tax reform has been been played out over recent weeks. It was running to a program that would have seen the government release green and white papers on tax that could have created the opportunity for the research-driven business lobby to have injected its own commissioned studies into how government policy feeds into the BCA's objectives of deriving growth dividends from particular policies on tax.
It has a mainstream television and radio advertising campaign waiting to roll out on the need for broader tax reform. For this to include increasing the GST would now seem out of date and counter-productive.
(The far less contentious – but equally important – innovation push from the BCA has been largely adopted by the Turnbull government.)
While Kroger obviously believes that the BCA are a well-heeled bunch of ineffective lobbyists that rely on lofty analysis and a gin and tonic at the Canberra Club to seal the deal, the reality is that the BCA is not flush with funds.
It is also fair to say that the federal Liberals and the BCA should generally be singing from the same song sheet.
Kroger is probably right that the BCA needs to be a bit more hard-edged and savvy as a lobby group. It needs to sell its message widely and more than just advocates for "capital".