The Guardian September 20, 2000

Report recommends businesses be subject to "Mutual Obligations"

The long, long awaited report from the Senate Standing Committee on 
Corporate Welfare was released early this week, so dreams Kerry Ans. The 
chairperson of the Committee points out that there are several 
recommendations to streamline the various forms of assistance to the 
corporate sector and to extend the notion of mutual obligation utilised in 
other parts of the welfare sector.

Evidence presented to the committee indicated that corporations in 
Australia receive $6 billion per annum in direct outlays and tax breaks 
alone, which is more than the $5.8 billion spent on unemployment and 
sickness benefits to individuals.

According to the report, there are numerous types of assistance to private 
business, including tariff adjustment programs, research and development 
tax breaks, innovation support, export assistance, and many subsidies to 
industries like private health insurance and superannuation, some of which 
escape the current government national accounting mechanisms.

The report states that, unlike other individual welfare recipients who have 
to meet mutual obligation arrangements in order to receive their payments, 
corporate recipients have not had any accounting for their benefits until 
this point in time.

There was a great fear amongst committee members that corporations were 
becoming welfare dependent, so reforms were required to help businesses 
meet their often expressed desire to participate in truly competitive 
market situations.

The recommendations for corporate mutual obligations include the following:

Recommendation 1. That a corporate welfare statement be announced as part 
of the Federal Budget Statement, so that a more accurate statement of 
government expenditure on welfare is publicly available.

Recommendation 2. That a list of all corporations receiving government 
welfare of more than $100,000 per annum be published along with the annual 
welfare statement.

Recommendation 3. That those corporations receiving more than $100,000 per 
annum in welfare be obliged to account for the expenditure of the benefit, 
via annual assessments with the Australian Tax Office.

Any businesses which have been in receipt of benefits, but have made no 
allowances for safeguarding employee entitlements, have their benefit 
immediately terminated.

Recommendation 4. That corporations employ one full-time permanent, award-
paid, worker in their organisation for every $100,000 of welfare benefit. 
And that businesses which have sacked more than two percent of their 
workforces in the past five years be ineligible for benefits.

Recommendation 5. That corporations conduct an annual ecological audit to 
monitor the impacts of their production processes, and provide an 
ecological impact plan for future activities to continue to be eligible for 
welfare benefits.

If only ....

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