Date: May 08 2012
Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly has urged other business leaders to work constructively with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and put aside the combative approach that some have taken to Ms Gillard's minority government.
In a rare public endorsement from one of the nation's most powerful bosses, Ms Kelly said Ms Gillard was ''a consultative person'' for whom she had ''a very healthy respect''.
''It's important that big business rolls up its sleeves and engages constructively, and I think the Prime Minister is also adopting this approach,'' Mrs Kelly told Fairfax.
Mrs Kelly's stance is in sharp contrast to some of her peers in big business, particularly in the mining industry, who have been publicly at loggerheads with Ms Gillard's government over policy issues. In an apparent dig at miners who have campaigned against the mining tax, Mrs Kelly blasted businesses that she said were attempting to ''run an agenda through third parties or the media''.
This approach was not conducive to economic reform, she said.
In making her comments, Mrs Kelly also put aside the often harsh criticism directed at her own company by the government over its failure - along with the other big banks - to pass on to consumers the full amounts of recent cuts in official interest rates by the Reserve Bank.
Westpac has also faced criticism for job cuts at the bank.
''She [Ms Gillard] stepped into the role. She does listen, I can tell you from personal experience,'' Mrs Kelly said.
''Even if you have a different starting point she will listen.
''And I really respect that in politicians.''
Mrs Kelly said she had had a number of ''robust discussions'' with Ms Gillard on policy issues where they might not have agreed. ''But we work our way through them and there's a very healthy respect.''
While she declined to discuss the nature of talks, banks and the government have been openly at loggerheads over whether the sector has been making excessive profits by pushing through out-of-cycle interest rate rises.
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