Combet Hits Back At Business Leaders Who Lamented Labor's Lack Of Vision

Getty/Stefan Postles

Today on ABC Radio industry and innovation minister Greg Combet hit back at business group leaders who were critical of the Labor Government in an article published in the Australian Financial Review.

Chief executives of the four key business groups – the BCA, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), the Australian Industry Group (AiG) and MCA lamented the poor state of the Federal Budget, government division and a lack of viable reform agenda during an AFR round table.

Speaking to ABC Radio on Monday, Combet said he was not “particularly impressed with that report in the paper today.”

The minister hit back at claims his government lacked vision, and their participation in the newspaper’s report, saying: “Standing around for photos for the Financial Review and bagging the Government without backing it up with what about your ideas for what reforms are, I don’t think that’s particularly visionary.”

Here’s the full transcript of his reaction, with questions:

Would you call these business leaders whingers?

I’m not particularly impressed with that report in the paper today I have to say I’m struggling to think of Tony Sheppard’s interventions in public policy making that are along the lines that he is trying to describe, what’s his visions again? You know I mean seriously when you look at what the Governments done. For example lining up the national broadband network, is that not a major driver of productivity, and a visionary project, something akin to rolling out the railways in the 1880’s or rolling out the telephone, the telegraph and electricity systems. It’s a huge investment in the nations future. We’re making record investments in transport infrastructure which are tremendously important for productivity. We lifted the cap on the number of students in degree places in universities, and as a consequences there is 140,000 more students in degree courses in this country, particularly in regional areas and particularly coming from lower socioeconomic background families, these are massive reforms.

So what do you make of that front page then? Do you believe business has written off the Labor government?

They can explain their own position but I think it is completely inaccurate and unfair to be saying that there are not major productivity driving reforms being made, they are. You know it was 13 or 14 years ago that the business council in fact was promoting carbon pricing. I remember engaging with them in my formal role at the ACTU about the issue, now they whinge and moan about it. But 13 years ago they thought it was the right way to go about doing things. Well we’ve done that reform, we must reduce the emissions intensity of our economy. Just over the weekend the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere broke through the threshold of 400 parts per million. This is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with internationally particularly in an economy like ours, one of the most emissions intensive in the world, the highest per capitor polluters amongst all the advanced economies we must tackle this or we will suffer the consequences not only from an environmental and economic and social point of view but the trade implications down the track with our major trading partners in the region. That’s forward thinking. Standing around for photos for the Financial Review and bagging the Government without backing it up with what about your ideas for what reforms are, I don’t think that’s particularly visionary.

Do you think Labor can win?

Yeah I do think we can win, I think we’ve got a great record, I think we just need to get out in the community and argue our case to people. But I’m full of fight and so are my colleagues and we can get out and win it.

Now read: It All Adds Up As Minister Announces Full $17 Billion Revenue Writedown

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