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Responses to the Prime Minister's speech to ACOSS where he discusses corporate philanthropy.

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PETER THOMPSON: Business people are not feeling charitable towards the Prime Minister following John Howard’s remarks implying they were too stingy to help the less fortunate.  The PM wants the big end of town to dig deeper into its corporate pockets to meet its community obligations, but business reporter, Karon Snowdon, found neither business nor the community sector were too happy with Mr Howard’s remarks.


KARON SNOWDON: Take Melbourne property developer, Michael Buxston, who’s given millions to charity.  He’s maybe the exception to the rule among Australian business people, but he took exception to the PM’s comments.


MICHAEL BUXTON:  I think the Prime Minister is pretty mean in his statement really, because they’re calling on private people to give more and more, and not only in social welfare but arts and every form of work that is really a government responsibility.


KARON SNOWDON: The chair of Western Mining, Sir Arvi Parbo, thought it necessary to defend corporate charity.


ARVI PARBO:  All the corporations that I know do it, so when you say that you can do more, well, that’s true of course, but to really understand what it means, I think one really needs to have something tangible to look at rather than the broad comment that one can do more.


KARON SNOWDON: You think that Australian businesses are fairly giving already?


ARVI PARBO:  I think every corporation has its own program and they do what they believe, in their particular circumstances, is the kind of activity that they ought to be supporting.  I don’t know of any corporation that doesn’t do some kind of support.


KARON SNOWDON: Pointing to the estimate that business accounts for less than 5 per cent of the money community groups have to spend on assistance in health, housing and poverty and unemployment relief, the Prime Minister wants to see a bigger effort and bigger cheques.  Michael Buxton says the Government might have to give something in return.


MICHAEL BUXTON:  Government takes off an enormous amount of taxation.  If they want business and private people to give more to welfare and to arts, then they have to reduce taxation.


JOHN HOWARD:   The spirit of corporate citizenship suggests that a company that derives profit from the community has an obligation to contribute to its development.  Just as we now expect unemployed young people to work for the dole, it is reasonable to expect the same principle of mutual obligation to apply to the business sector.


KARON SNOWDON: The Prime Minister, extending his concept of mutual obligation.  For Bishop Michael Challen, head of the charity, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Government is challenging business to pick up the pieces of the mess the Government is making through two harsh budget cuts, and the PM’s message that ‘to give is good’ is clouding the issues.


MICHAEL CHALLEN:  The Prime Minister would be deluding himself if, in fact, he felt that business can pick up the responsibilities that we as a society have traditionally asked our government to see to.  The Coalition has frequently talked about so-called ‘smaller government’ which does not mean, of course, fewer people in Parliament, and that is, of course, quite worrying at a time when, in fact, the need for the community to support itself through government initiatives and programs has increased - to wit, because unemployment is so high.


KARON SNOWDON: Bishop Challen says, while some philanthropy is generous and has a role to play, the best business can do is provide jobs, not charity.


MICHAEL CHALLEN:  The fundamental issue, especially for younger people in Australia, is employment.  And what businesses could do and, of course, government could assist.  That is to say:  employ more people and make that more attractive by, for example, reducing or removing the payroll tax.


PETER THOMPSON: Bishop Michael Challen.