Pressure for early election
Business leaders have urged Labor to call an election "sooner rather than later", warning that the party's leadership turmoil had sapped confidence and distracted from urgent economic policy debates.
Calling for clarity on the election date and key policies, business leaders said the Rudd government needed to act quickly to shore up confidence in the economy.
Toll Holdings chief executive Brian Kruger called on Kevin Rudd to set an election date as soon as possible, while Myer chief executive Bernie Brookes said an early election would mean issues such as productivity, competitiveness and economic strategy could be addressed more quickly.
But Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson cautioned that challenges facing the economy - declining competitiveness, high business costs, low confidence and a trend to send jobs offshore - would not be cured by changing the Labor leader.
Former prime minister Julia Gillard had nominated September 14 as the election date. But the writ had not been issued, leaving Mr Rudd free to name another date.
"I would like to see the election issue resolved sooner rather than later," Mr Kruger said. "The sooner we can resolve all of the issues going on in Canberra ... and move forward and talk about important policy issues the better."
Mr Brookes said he hoped Mr Rudd would focus on policy and "strategy for the country rather than political and personal agendas". He said the rivalry with Ms Gillard had been like a "reality TV program - and a bad one at that".
New Treasurer Chris Bowen moved quickly to try to soothe nerves by contacting executives and industry group leaders as the government sought to re-engage the private sector.
Tony Shepherd, head of the Business Council of Australia, said Mr Rudd should act to restore shaky confidence by "immediately marking out an agenda focused squarely on jobs, investment, competitiveness and growth".
He called on the ALP to lower the carbon price to meet international prices, withdraw the 457-visa legislation, change the Fair Work Act and order an audit on spending.
"We know historically that business investment and consumer confidence stalls during an election year," said Michael Cameron, chief executive of property company GPT Group. "Whatever the outcome, business is looking for clarity in politics to enable confident decision-making."
Mining industry executives indicated on Thursday that they, too, would prefer the election to happen soon. They included Bill Beament, chief executive of gold miner Northern Star Resources. "Regardless of which party is in there, you just want certainty, a stable regime and a stable taxation regime ... so you can plan accordingly."
HSBC Bank Australia chief executive Tony Cripps said the fragile political situation in Canberra had been weighing on confidence, alongside the high Australian dollar and the mining slowdown.
"So any way you look at it, once the election is out of the way and there is some certainty, that should help lift confidence," he said.
Australian Bankers' Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg said an election would help restore confidence, but whether it was held in August, September or October was not of great importance.
Peter Strong, head of small business association COSBOA, called for the government to shore up confidence among small businesses, and return to policy rather than politicking.
Executives welcomed Mr Rudd's pledge to re-engage with business, with Mr Beament saying Labor's relationship with the corporate world had "absolutely broken down to virtually nothing".
But David Flanagan, CEO of Atlas Iron, said he had been frustrated by Mr Rudd's comments that the "China resources boom" was over. "These guys can make it self-fulfilling," Mr Flanagan told ABC radio in Perth. "If they actually diminish confidence in our sector beyond what is, in reality, a wonderful place to invest, they can deliver an end to a resources boom by telling everyone it's over.
"I believe that what the nation needs now is strong proven national economic leadership to deal with the formidable new challenge Australia now faces, with the end of the decade-long China resources boom and its impact on Australian jobs and living standards into the future," he said.
What they said
Tony Shepherd, Business Council of Australia
"[Rudd] must act to restore shaky business and consumer confidence immediately marking out an agenda focused squarely on jobs, investment, competitivenes and growth."
Bernie Brookes, Myer
"It has been like a reality Tv program - and a bad one at that! I hope this provides certainty and a focus on policy and strategy for the country rather than political and personal agendas"
Steven Munchenberg, Australian Bankers’ Association
"There cannot be any doubt that the political uncertainty is weighing down consumer and business confidence."
Brian Kruger, Toll Holdings
"The sooner we can resolve all of the issues going on in Canberra ... and move forward and talk about important policy issues the better."
Paul Bloxham, HSBC
"The greater popularity of Rudd ... could make it a closer election and thus deliver a less certain mandate to govern."