Business groups should ‘grow a backbone’, claims lobbyist

A leading retail industry lobbyist has claimed that fellow business groups need to “grow a backbone” and stand up for small firms on issues such as bank interest rates.



Scott Driscoll, national president of the United Retail Federation, has promised to “name and shame” banks that break ranks with the Reserve Bank and raise interest rates on small business customers.


However, Driscoll told StartupSmart that he often felt isolated in championing the causes of small businesses on issues such as interest rates, competition policy reform and industrial relations.


“I’m happy for other business groups to fall in with us, as we are adept at getting our message out there,” he says.


“We need to do a bit more. For too long, I look around and I’m the only one standing up there. These other business groups need to take a stronger stand and they need to grow a backbone. They know who they are.


“There is a lack of focus there, they need to try a bit harder. We are very in-touch with our membership – maybe other groups are too close to government or feel gagged. I don’t know.


“I’m sure that banks will attack me for this. I’m sure economists who have never looked up from a book in their lives will say it’s not competitive, but it is competitive to look at this issue.”


Driscoll claims that it is “far too soon” for banks to be raising interest rates, pointing to potential job losses and a weak Christmas trading period for retailers if rates are hiked.


However, it’s likely that at least one of the major banks will defy the lead set by the Reserve Bank this week, which kept rates on hold at 4.5%. I the wake of the decision, ANZ chief executive Mike Smith said that “something has to give” on interest rates, the strongest hint yet that the bank may up its rate.


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