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PM holds emergency business summit

world Updated: Oct 17, 2008 08:43 IST
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Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will hold an emergency summit of the country's top business leaders on Friday as the once-stellar economy turns down amid financial market turmoil and the threat of global recession.

Just days after announcing a $7.3 billion stimulus package to buffer the $1 trillion economy, Rudd said he would consult major mining, software and finance leaders to hear their views on what else could be done.

"We'll be out and about talking with the business community and the general community over what's still going to be a very, very tough time ahead," Rudd told Australian television.

Some of Australia's biggest companies would attend the summit, including the world's top miner BHP Billiton and engineering contractor Leighton Holdings Ltd, as well as global resource firms like Xstrat.

Accounting firms Deloitte and Ernst and Young, credit provider American Express, computer and software majors IBM and Microsoft, and media firm News Ltd would also attend.

Rudd may come under pressure to abandon or delay the planned 2010 introduction of the world's most comprehensive carbon emissions trading scheme outside the European Union, with big resource firms warning it could cripple growth.

Oil major ExxonMobil has said emissions trade as planned would make petrol refining in Australia unprofitable, driving operations offshore into Asia.

While mid-year budget figures are not set for release until mid-November, some economists now tip Australia's growth to slide from above 4 percent to a sluggish 1-2 percent. This fiscal year's budget forecast for 2008-09 was for 2.75 percent growth.

The International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook last week, compiled before the current crisis, forecast growth would slow to 2.2 percent in 2009.

Rudd said the growing financial crisis, which has seen Australia's dollar lose nearly a quarter of its value in little over a month and brought the country's stockmarket to a 3-year low, was a "cancer" spreading from the United States.

"The cancer didn't just stay local. It spread across the world to all the other institutions," he said.