Ridout attacked for being ‘too close’ to Labor Govt


Ridout attacked for being ‘too close’ to Labor Govt

A major business organisation has attacked the Australian Industry Group for being too close to the Rudd Labor Government.


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A major business organisation has attacked the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) for being too close to the Rudd Labor Government.
Steve Knott, chief executive of the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA), told the Weekend Australian that there was a perception the AI Group was ‘more comfortable’ working with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd than former Liberal PM John Howard.
Ai Group, under Ridout, declined to join other employer groups such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the Business Council of Australia is funding an advertising campaign before the last election supporting the Coalition’s WorkChoices IR policies.
WorkChoices is generally regarded as being a significant factor in the defeat of the Coalition Government.
Support for govt policies
Since the election, Ai Group has been consistently mentioned by the Labor Government as an indicator of business support for the government’s policies, including the Fair Work Australia legislation and last week’s Budget.
‘I'm happy to note she's positioned her organisation well and you've got to give her credit for all of that,’ Knott said.
‘But I've got to say as I go around business organisations, and I speak to them on a regular basis, and I talk to CEOs, there's a general view about that sometimes they have to do a double take — whether it's a press release or a statement from the government, or a press release and a statement from AIG.’
Knott claimed Ms Ridout had successfully depicted the AI Group as representing Australian industry when, in fact, it represented the ‘important but declining manufacturing sector’.
‘Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and others come out and conveniently reference Heather Ridout's support for just about everything (the government) puts out,’ he said.
Appointed to committees
‘She's been appointed to more reviews and committees that would even make Sir Humphrey Appleby blush. In that context, she is seen as very much involved in the government, she's involved in just about every committee and the perception is she's representing Australian industry.'
‘The reality is the broader, more representative group that fell out of favour with the government is ACCI.'
‘They have 35 member organisations and many of those member organisations have a membership that is far beyond the membership reach of the AIG in their own right.’
Before the election, ACCI was headed by Peter Hendy, previously the chief of staff to former IR Minister Peter Reith. After the election loss, Hendy moved to the office of former Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson.
The Australian also quoted an unidentified employers’ group official as saying Ridout regularly gave the government ‘good cover for its political message’.
Takes pressure off govt
‘It is delivered in a way that takes pressure off the government and makes it difficult for other business groups to bring about policy change,’ the official said.
As part of his argument, Knott pointed to how Ridout had described Labor's Fair Work Bill as a ‘workable compromise’ before advocating a raft of changes to a Senate committee.
Ridout said it is not Ai Group’s practice to comment on other industry associations.
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