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Transcript of joint doorstop: 17 October 2008: Crows Nest, Sydney: small business interest rates; economy; economic stimulus package.

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17 October 2008



Subjects: Small business interest rates; economy; economic stimulus package.



Joe and I are here at Crows Nest, full of small businesses. These small businesses are the engine room of the Australian economy. And they’re anxious, they’re looking for leadership, they’re looking for greater confidence to be shown by leaders. They’re concerned that interest rate cuts from the Reserve Bank are not finding their way through to small business and indeed we looked into it today and we could only find one of the big banks has passed on to its small business customers the recent Reserve Bank interest rate cut.

And they’re concerned too that the Prime Minister, as one of the merchants we just met with said, [inaudible] concerned the Prime Minister is spending so much time with the big end of town and not enough time with small business. Because all of the problems, the big financial problems, they start in Wall Street, they might start at the big end of town, but where they hit

the road very hard is in Main Street, is in the part of Australia where small business is working, where there are merchants like this and many other small businesses.

We spoke to a small telecommunications company, to their executives just around the corner there. They’re all hiring people when times are good, they’re trying to be optimistic but it is their confidence, their ability to keep going, their ability to feel good about their future that is absolutely vital to the future of our economy and to jobs because that is where most Australians work.

And that is why when Mr Rudd is talking to the big end of town - one minute he is saying that their executive salaries are too high, the next minute he’s having lunch with them - the big message that he should be sending to the big end of town is what about those rate cuts feeding through for small business. What about these guys here? Because they are the ones that are providing most of the jobs in our nation.


What are the shop owners saying about business? Has it really dropped off in the past two weeks?


What they have said is that it is softening, I think that is probably the fairest description. They’re seeking to stay upbeat. Simon who runs the shoe repair store we saw around the corner here, he said things have slowed down [inaudible] but he was worried that the Government was talking so negatively about the economy it starts to feed on itself. So he was

looking for a bit of confidence.

And that’s why we say for the Opposition, for the Coalition, we say yes we are in a storm, yes we will get wet but we will not sink. This is a strong country. The energy, the enterprise and the optimism of Australians is what will pull us through. And we need leaders to speak proudly and confidently about our economy because confidence is everything. That is the one thing. Our friend Tonia with the baggage store around the corner, she made the point that if she isn’t upbeat and positive when she meets the customers they’re not going to feel confident and do business with her. Confidence is everything. Courage, confidence, optimism is vitally important.


Shouldn’t the [inaudible] with the people about what the situation is and not try to sugar coat it?


Absolutely. I mean Joe and I got beaten up by Mr Rudd and Mr Swan earlier in the year for being honest. We said right at the beginning of the year that the Reserve Bank shouldn’t put up interest rates because we said there is a sub-prime crisis going on in the States, it’s going to slow the global economy down and so we shouldn’t be trying to put the brakes on the economy ourselves. In other words there was going to be enough slowdown coming in from overseas. That’s what we said right back at the beginning of the year and we got towelled up by Mr Rudd and Mr Swan while they were busy talking the economy down and talking inflation up. And you remember Mr Swan’s classic line the day before the Reserve Bank met. What did he say? The inflation genie is out of the bottle. Mr Rudd wasn’t content with that metaphor so he said the inflation monster was wreaking havoc across the country. They talked interest rates up at the precise time we should have been adopting a prudent approach knowing that there was worse to come. Now nobody imagined it would be as bad as it has been in the last month, that’s for sure, it’s got a lot worse, but it was obvious that there were problems looming at the beginning of the year and both of us were on the record talking about them then.


What does the [inaudible] how does it help middle class Australia? In Crows Nest, where does the money go?


Well what the Government hopes is that the $10 billion they’re putting into the economy, most of which will hit people’s bank accounts and wallets, purses a couple of weeks before Christmas, they’re hoping that much of that will be spent in businesses like this around the country. It is a stimulus. It is an adrenalin shot or an endeavour to take an adrenalin shot. Now how effective it is, we will see. One of the things Joe and I have been endeavouring to find out is what is the Government’s view about the economic forecast for next year? What impact do they think the stimulus will have? They won’t answer any of those questions. Now we’re supporting the package but that doesn’t mean we’ve just got to become you know a compliant and obsequious cheer squad for the Prime Minister. We’re the Opposition. We’re there to hold him to account. That’s what Parliament is meant to do. And yet as you see at Question Time whenever we ask him a question he’s filled with indignation anyone would dare ask him a question. So all this week Joe and I and Julie Bishop and our colleagues we’ve been asking the Prime Minister questions about the economy. His answers have just been one tirade of abuse and indignation directed at us.


How do you think the shop keepers would have treated Kevin Rudd if he walked down the main street this morning?


Oh I don’t know, I’m sure they would have been polite. They probably would have given some very old fashioned advice. But I think they would have been very polite, wouldn’t you say Joe?


I think you’re generous.


You think I’m generous, okay, alright. This is Joe’s electorate. Okay thanks very much.