Australian business groups have united this morning in hope the change in leadership of the Labor Party will bring an end to the uncertainty which has plagued small business.
Last night, Kevin Rudd was re-installed as prime minister after Julia Gillard called a leadership ballot on Wednesday afternoon.
Rudd won the caucus ballot 57 to 45 and was sworn in by the Governor-General at 9.30am this morning.
The spill is the latest development in the saga between the politicians, which has claimed the positions of numerous MPs, and has now seen former prime minister Gillard fall on her sword, as she committed to ending her political career following the September election.
As Rudd supporters rejoiced, the Australian business community was once again contemplating what the change in leadership will mean for business.
Council of Small Businesses of Australia executive director Peter Strong told SmartCompany at the moment Kevin Rudd’s return “means nothing”, but he said it’s time the focus shifted to the needs of small business.
“When it comes to industrial relations, unions at the moment have been controlling it under Gillard. We also don’t want the control of IR issues to go back to the big end of town, now maybe it’s the time to give small business a turn,” he says.
Strong says in many of the marginal voting areas a large portion of the population is small business owners.
“In the western suburbs of Sydney, for example Parramatta, 17% of people are small businesses owners and the margin is currently 4%. What we’re saying is if people want to get elected, they need to remember small business people vote.
“If Rudd wants to win their vote, he’s got to look at what matters to small business,” he says.
Strong says the small business community wants an end to uncertainty, and the sooner an election occurs, the better.
“September isn’t far away, but what we want is certainty and the sooner a decision is made the sooner we can get on with our lives.
“Small business people are lacking confidence, so we need a decision to be made before confidence can return,” he says.
Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Mark Stone agreed with Strong, telling SmartCompany business confidence had been affected by the turmoil.
“Business is tired of the continuing uncertainty surrounding the political leadership and has been let down by this hung Parliament. It is time to clear the air and have an election,” Stone says.
The fallout from the spill continued last night and this morning, with Anthony Albanese replacing Wayne Swan as deputy leader and Penny Wong replacing Stephen Conroy as government leader in the Senate.
Other ministers who were supporters of Gillard and have now declared they will leave their positions include Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, Trade Minister Craig Emerson, Agricultural Minister Joe Ludwig and School Education Minister Peter Garrett.
Small Business Minister Gary Gray has been urged by Rudd to retain his position, despite being critical of Rudd earlier in the week.
Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd said in a statement Rudd’s re-election by party ballot must be a catalyst to return to “good government and good policy process”.
“Prime Minister Kevin Rudd must act to restore shaky business and consumer confidence by immediately marking out an agenda focused squarely on jobs, investment, competitiveness and growth.
“We welcome Mr Rudd identifying the need for government to re-engage with business, because maintaining a respectful dialogue with business on important issues is critical to address our competitiveness challenges, make it easier for business to hire more people and ensure a strong and growing economy,” he says.
Shepherd said the business community is tired of divisive politics and policies which are aimed “shoring up political survival”.
“Now that the leadership has been resolved there is a need for decisive action in key areas to restore business and community confidence
“That includes lowering the carbon price to the international level, withdrawing the damaging the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill and the amendments to the Fair Work Act, committing to an audit of government spending, repealing the recent flurry of anti-business and anti-growth legislation including tax laws and environmental approvals, and ensuring policy development acknowledges the role of business in creating growth, jobs, and wealth for Australians to share,” he said.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson said in a statement the current challenges facing Australian businesses are completely unchanged following last night’s events, but there is a need for action.
“When the political fog of these events clears, what business demands now and after the next election is stable political leadership rooted in policies that will support and strengthen the economy and better value private sector people and their effort.
“As tempting as it is to have a political view on last night’s events, the business community is and must be blind to personality but absolutely open-eyed to policies that support the private sector,” he says.