By Alexander Corne
With so many facing oblivion, businesses are entitled to make their concerns known to their representatives in government.
In life, business and politics, trust, like respect, cannot be bought or sold. It is earned through actions not words, and it must be defended and prized. It should not be destroyed wantonly, because the path back is arduous and time-consuming.
Public trust in and respect for state governments must, by now, be approaching an all-time low. One hopes that, in Australia, we are still far away from the wanton anarchy, vandalism, looting and shooting that currently ravages the somewhat dis-United States of America?
However, in just one weekend, the past three months of state and federal haranguing of the populace, including by their myriad of ‘experts’, in the interests of public health has been undone by the authorities acquiescing to the social cause du jour warriors. Resulting in more confusion as to where we are on the path to a return of our freedoms and an ongoing lack of the clarity and certainty that business craves.
The restrictions placed on all see us more socially distanced than ever. The social distancing warriors, who mandated a 1.5m inter-person separation, to keep at bay the virus for which there is no known vaccine, have also successfully distanced us from our jobs, our income, our livelihoods and most importantly, our families.
Unless of course, we’re the glib adopters of the latest progressive rage, in which case, forget everything you’ve been hearing, absorbing, learning and enforcing over the past three months. Let’s join the fight against racism. That’s such a comfort. Far easier to fight against something we can all abhor yet, seemingly, self-define.
Businesses are at a loss to understand how the states can fail to activate the forces of protection to prevent such blatant flouting of rules enthusiastically enforced on everyone else and on all commercial endeavours at the most micro level?
You couldn’t visit your mother on Mother’s Day in Victoria or march on ANZAC Day, or serve more than 20 in your 100 seat restaurant, or allow queue-free access to your retail outlets but you can turn up with 10,000 of your politically aligned mates to protest in the CBD about an issue that has been with us for literally hundreds of years. Is it necessary to do so right now? Or is it the fear of missing out on the transient arc of the ’movement’ that drives the self-important?
State Premiers appeared desperate to avoid confronting the voluble, potentially volatile, frustrated and possibly violent minority. Their puzzling actions (or lack thereof) leave the ‘quiet’ majority dumbfounded (locked down in their suburban residences). Is this leadership? No, at best it is abrogation of responsibility, at worst it is capitulation and the first key step on the road to anarchy. If the populace believes the decision-makers are derelict in their core duty of defending the security of their people, then trust in the state, in the system, evaporates.
But for businesses, with so many facing oblivion, the time to push-back against inconsistency and hypocrisy may have arrived. Elected representatives are there to do just that: Represent! That includes representing the tens of thousands of SMEs and the larger businesses employing many.
Businesses and business owners are entitled to be heard and should make their concerns known to their representatives in all levels of government. There is an effective way and a confrontational way to do that. It may be that some expert guidance is required to deliver an effective message. But those elected have shown that they have the power to halt business in its tracks. Business needs to show that it has the power to be heard and to make clear the impact of policy decisions.
How is trust won back? Not with cash handouts. Not with platitudes. Not by hiding behind the skirts of malleable ‘experts’ and not by paternalistic scolding of one group whist indulging another. It is regained by being open, up front and honest with the population. By listening to more than just the latest cause obsessed minority, by applying rules evenly and by recognising that, at least in our current society, the state doesn’t always know best and that most of us believe the state serves us not the other way around.
RMK+A is highly experienced in government relations and in assisting businesses and organisations in engagement with policy makers.