ACCC praises Rudd's call for productivity pact

UPDATE: A key business group has welcomed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's call for a productivity pact - but they want to see the detail.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday responded to Mr Rudd's plan, calling for more action to help small business.

Chief executive Peter Anderson said while he welcomed Mr Rudd's language, small business people needed concrete action.

"The time has come for political leaders to give small business people around the country a specific signal as to their intentions in government," he said.

Mr Anderson said rather than another Accord - a key achievement of the Hawke-Keating years - small business still needed more.

"The best plan by government is to allow the thousands of plans of private businesses to flourish rather than put all faith in a single government model," he said.

Mr Rudd said on Thursday he planned to make several major reforms, including to the energy sector, but did not reveal how his aims would be achieved.

His speech came three months into the chamber's "Too Big to Ignore" small business campaign, calling for cuts to red tape, easier business tax and better infrastructure.

Mr Anderson said the business lobby was still calling on both Mr Rudd and his opposite number Tony Abbott to support the campaign.

"Further, we call on both leaders to provide a detailed response on the issues, and what they will or would do in government on these fronts," he said.


EALIRER: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has moved to engender goodwill among Australia's business leaders with a plan for a new "productivity pact".

Unveiled in a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, the pact aims to strengthen ties between business, unions and government.

The pact mirrors the income accord of the Hawke-Keating era, as part of a national effort to improve competitiveness without eroding workers' rights.

Mr Rudd said the core of the pact would be to lift Australia's productivity from the current rate of 1.6% to 2% or better.

After Opposition Leader Tony Abbott refused to turn up to a debate with Mr Rudd at the press club, the Prime Minister used the occasion to outline the pact.

"The truth is if we are to drive a new national competitiveness agenda we need to have government, business and unions working as much as possible together - pushing in the same strategic policy direction for the overall wellbeing of our national economy," Mr Rudd said.

He said while he was optimistic, he did not have a "pie in the sky" attitude to improving the nation's economy.

Coming after a series of meetings Mr Rudd held with business and unions leaders in the past fortnight, it is part of the Labor Government to turn the conversation back to the government's economic achievements.

He also used the speech to dispel the Coalition's attacks on the carbon tax, reiterating recent increases in power prices have mainly been due to weak regulation.

Mr Rudd also attacked Mr Abbott's claims about government debt, saying they were based on a falsehood and a "house of cards".

"Therefore, whenever you hear Mr Abbott, Mr Hockey, Mr Robb or anyone else try and run the lines on an Australian debt and deficit crisis, remember this was the day for Mr Abbott to defend his case," he said.

"Instead, Mr Abbott decided to cut and run."

Mr Abbott, in Melbourne, responded, saying Mr Rudd's proposed pact was more "flim flam from the master of flim flam".

He said he refused to attend Mr Rudd's debate, saying he could either call back the parliament for debate or call an election date, where formal debates would be held.

Mr Abbott instead asked what specific measures Mr Rudd had proposed as part of the productivity pact, and how he would implement them.

"All he can talk about is process, not change and what our country needs is real change, not fake change," he said.

"So look, I welcome the fact that Mr Rudd is at the Press Club being accountable, but what the Australian public want is a new and different Government, not just a different face at the head of an old failed Government."

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