Rudd tries to hit ‘reset button’ with business

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his new ministry. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew MearesThe business community has renewed calls for an early election, despite Kevin Rudd’s attempts to repair Labor’s relationship with business.
Nanjing Night Net

On Tuesday morning, Mr Rudd met with the Business Council of Australia for the first time since being reinstated as Prime Minister.

Mr Rudd promised last week that one of the first things he would do as leader was work ”very closely” with business.

President of the BCA, Tony Shepherd, described the meeting with Mr Rudd as “useful” and “constructive” but said he still wanted an election as soon as possible.

It has been speculated that Mr Rudd wants to delay the election beyond September 14.

“We believe an early election would be a good way of settling down business confidence,” Mr Shepherd said immediately after the meeting in Canberra.

“I think that business is on hold at the present time, and the sooner that that can be resolved the better it will be for everybody.”

Since replacing Julia Gillard as Prime Minister, Mr Rudd has distanced himself from the rhetoric of former treasurer, Wayne Swan, who alienated some business leaders by lashing out at billionaires, including Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart.

Besides abandoning the former treasurer’s rhetoric, Mr Rudd is understood to be considering at least one policy change favoured by business. He would prefer to abandon the carbon tax and move quickly to a floating price on carbon, linked to global markets.

In his first speech after the leadership spill, Mr Rudd made a direct plea to business: “Let me say this to Australian business: I want to work closely with you.”

Mr Rudd reminisced about how closely he worked with business in the past, particularly during the global financial crisis.

“I’m saying it loud and clear to businesses large and small across the country, that in partnership we can do great things for the country’s future,” Mr Rudd said.

“Business is a group that this government will work with very closely.”

Mr Shepherd was cautious when asked whether he thought Mr Rudd had changed and would listen more to business.

“We’ll see that play out in the future,” he said. “But it was a constructive meeting … I think it’s an opportunity to hit the reset button.”

Mr Shepherd said the BCA’s conversation with Mr Rudd was mostly a “general” discussion about the relationship between government and business and about productivity.

They did not discuss Labor’s contentious crackdown on foreign workers allegedly “rorting” the 457 visa program.

Others in the business community have been cautiously positive about the new Prime Minister.

Last Friday, the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox, told ABC radio he was encouraged to see Labor trying to “reset the relationship” with business.

“Look, there was a chequered history with the Rudd government,” Mr Willox said.

“But there has been quite significant outreach from parts of the government.”

Labor could start by trying to “get the tone of language right”, Mr Willox said.

“We’ve had a couple of years of unfortunate use of language at times around the business community and those who do business in Australia.

“So if we can get the tone right, that would be a most welcome step.”

Follow the National Times on Twitter

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.