COSBOA summit: Treasurer Jim Chalmers blasts Opposition Leader Peter Dutton for small business plan

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Jim Chalmers has taken aim at Peter Dutton, branding the alternative prime minister’s pitch to small business leaders as a “rant long on nasty negativity” that lacked creditably.

The Treasurer’s accusation followed an address by the Opposition Leader to a conference in Sydney on Wednesday morning, where he laid out his agenda for small entrepreneurs and employers.

Mr Dutton promised employers would benefit from cheaper energy prices, simplified labour laws, a non-interventionist government and to kibosh regulatory hurdles, should the Coalition come to power at the next federal election.

“The Coalition understands the critical role that small businesses will play in helping to lift productivity and living standards in the decades ahead,” the Opposition Leader told the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia’s (COSBOA) annual summit.

“But the Labor Party shows nothing but contempt for small business.”

With an election to be held by May 2025 at the latest, the Mr Dutton’s address comes as the party faces growing pressure to announce the policies it will take to the next poll.

Reacting to the remarks, the Treasurer said the opposition under Mr Dutton’s leadership had failed to support small businesses themselves.

“If they really cared about workers and small businesses they wouldn’t have voted no to our electricity rebates which are helping families and small businesses with their energy bills, or threatened to unwind our cost of living tax cuts for middle Australia,” Dr Chalmers said.

Continuing his attempt to rebrand Labor as the party of responsible economic management, Dr Chalmers pointed to the former Coalition government’s credentials, contrasting it with his own record.

“Inflation and unemployment were higher under the Liberals, business investment and productivity were weak, real wages were going backwards, and there was debt and deficits and waste as far as the eye could see,” he said.

Mr Dutton also told attendees that the cost of doing business would be reduced should the Coalition’s mooted nuclear power push be adopted.

“Nuclear is the only proven technology which emits zero emissions, which can firm up renewables, and which provides cheap, consistent and clean power,” Mr Dutton said.

“And yet bizarrely, Australia is the only country in the top 20 economies which hasn’t embraced domestic nuclear power or is taking steps to do so.”

The Coalition is set to unveil a costed policy to build large-scale nuclear reactors on the sites of former coal-fired power stations to bolster baseload electricity supply to firm intermittent renewable sources.

But the Treasurer blasted the opposition’s nuclear policy, labelling the measure as “economic insanity”.

Energy experts have also poured cold water over the Coalition’s nuclear generation proposal, while multiple setbacks for overseas projects have cast doubt on the technology’s commercial viability.

While positioning the Coalition as the party of small enterprise, the opposition leader has had a somewhat fraught relationship with Australia’s largest corporates, particularly over their support of the failed Voice referendum.

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