Mr Morton, who is driving Scott Morrison’s deregulation agenda, used a speech at an Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry event to attack the body for taking campaign advice from GetUp.
He warned corporate leaders they should expect no favours from the government unless they were at the forefront of selling how business-friendly policies will improve the lives of “quiet Australians”.
“Last year I had some things to say about ACCI having the activist group, GetUp, address this summit on how to achieve campaign cut through. I think the expression is: That worked well, didn’t it?” Mr Morton said at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday afternoon.
“At the recent federal election GetUp concentrated on a relatively small number of electorates, but its campaigns against the so-called hard right, and its even grubbier than usual tactics, were repudiated by voters in all but one seat.
“Quiet Australians get GetUp, and other organisations like it.”
Mr Morton, a close ally and adviser to the Prime Minister, said company leaders needed to show government how they will advocate for business-friendly policies.
“I would go so far as to say, otherwise, do not apply, because we are not interested in what’s good for corporate Australia if it’s just good for corporate Australia,” Mr Morton said.
“We’re interested in what’s good for hard working, aspirational Australians.
“The Liberal Party is not the political wing of big business, as Labor is of the unions.”
Mr Morton said business had “too often” been on the frontline of social issues but “missing in action” on economic debates.
“Too often I see corporate Australia succumb or pander to similar pressures from noisy, highly orchestrated campaigns of elites typified by groups such as GetUp or activist shareholders,” Mr Morton said.
“Business should not be seduced by the noisy elites who try to bend business to their narrow viewpoints.
“I have an old fashioned view that business should act honestly and within the law, provide the best possible product or service, and maximise return to their shareholders.
“So instruct your public affairs units. Instead of pretending you love paying tax or that you’re building electric cars rather than mining coal, or are in the solar panel rather than the oil or gas business, tell your employees and the quiet Australians in their communities – what you can do for them.”
He pointed to a lack of campaigning for company tax cuts by business leaders in the last parliament.
“I must admit to not speaking in parliament during the debate on reducing the company tax rate. While I obviously agree with reducing corporate tax, I felt that – with one or two notable exceptions – if corporate Australia wasn’t prepared to make the case for tax cuts, why should I?” Mr Morton said.
“I’m not interested in doing what is right because it’s good for business. I’m interested in doing what’s right for business if it’s good for those quiet Australians – and this is how business should pitch every idea or demand to government.“