The bosses of two of Australia's largest banks enjoying buoyant trading conditions have called for the Senate to swiftly resolve the impasse of a budget that cuts benefits for the nation's lowest income earners.
ANZ Bank chief executive Mike Smith was most forthright, urging the “characters” from the Senate’s minority parties to swiftly pass the Abbott government’s budget, arguing they should “get out of the way” of the government’s reform agenda.
The Senate is deadlocked over the government’s contentious budget, which includes significant cuts to health and education, plus the introduction of the $7 GP co-payment.
The ALP and Greens have declared their opposition, forcing the government to negotiate with the crossbench, including Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party.
“What upsets me about this is this government had a clear mandate from the Australian people and they should be allowed to govern,” he said.
“These characters who get in the way ... they are not doing the national interest any good.”
Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief executive Ian Narev✓, as he unveiled a record $8.7 billion profit for the year, warned that the stalled progress of the budget was a risk to a positive, but fragile, economic outlook.
He said debates over budget measures were valid, but the uncertainty created was dragging on confidence.
“All parties do need to understand the longer debates continue to occur over these things, and the longer people feel they’re in a policy hiatus as to exactly what type of environment they are going to be operating on, it clearly is going to keep people sitting on their hands,” he said.
While he supported the "long-term idea" of the budget in its attempt to bring government spending and revenue in balance, Mr Narev said he was not advocating specific measures in the budget.
"I think that the direction the government has set for the long term for the economy is the right one, but I don't think it's the position of chief executives to be advocating on some of these more tricky social issues in terms of which parts of the economy wear or the necessary cuts be done, etc."
"I certainly think that for the benefit of Australia ... the idea of making sure you have a responsible government which has underpinned the budget is the right one.
"But I don't think it's for us to be necessarily saying, what are the specific benefits of some of these very political judgments which elected officials are there to debate and take a view on."
Where the burden of cuts should fall, particularly in the short term, was a legitimate political questions, he said.
The comments from the leading bankers come after Treasurer Joe Hockey last week hit out at big businesses for their supposed lack of support for the budget, saying it was “bloody hard” to explain the complexities of the economy, and urged business leaders to share the heavy lifting.
"Really the question is, who is keeping the pressure on both sides of politics to develop the bipartisan support for real reform? That's missing," Mr Hockey said.
Mr Hockey has also threatened to take “emergency action” in a bid to have the budget passed, including introducing austerity measures.
Mr Smith insisted he was in Mr Hockey’s corner, saying: “I give him support. And I think he deserves it. I think they did try and do some stuff that needed doing and, as I say, they were stymied.”
His comments come after some economists have called for the government to recast its budget in an attempt to get measures through the Senate.
Oz Minerals chief executive Terry Burgess was more forgiving at his results call saying: "Having talked to a number of people in various governments around the world, it's quite amazing how difficult it must be to run a country compared to running a company."
Mr Smith also called Mr Hockey “very brave” after his resolution for G20 finance ministers to accept an incremental 2 per cent world growth over five years.
“That was gutsy. And he did a brilliant job.”
With many of those ministers set to arrive in Brisbane in November for the G20, Mr Smith avoided answering directly whether he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin should remain invited after the downing of MH17 in July
“I think what the Prime Minister will be doing is talk to other members of G20 and ask them what they think they could get from this, what sort of reaction would you receive. So I think there must be a lot of discussion going on ... but I don’t know what will come out.”