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A pox on both their houses!

August 11, 2010: COSBOA, the organisation which claims small businesses as its constituency in Australia, has put together a ‘wish list’ of policy changes in the context of the Federal election.

We’ve decided to run this summary of COSBOA’s requests as you won’t read it in the daily press, and it puts in stark contrast the absence of real policy on small business by the Coalition, the ALP, or for that matter The Greens. (Click on the links to go directly to their respective small business policies.)

Tap ‘Small Business Policy’ and ‘ALP’ into Google and nothing of relevance comes up. Put simply, there is no considered ALP policy for small business other than increasing the capital purchases write-off from $1000 to $5000 at some time in the future. Well whacko!

For all the motherhood statements on small business being the engine room of the economy, etc, the lack of action to assist the small business constituency lets us know how much they really care.

The Liberals do only slightly better, offering a place in Cabinet for the Small Business Minister and the creation of a Small Business Ombudsmen or Commission. Not much, and designed not to dismay the big business, banking and above all big retail lobbies which have so much more of a say in the direction of Australia than the divided-and-ruled small business people whom the politicians praise in 5-second TV grabs and walk all over the rest of the time.

‘The need for the Minister of Small Business to have more of a say in policy direction within government is all important,’ Peter Rose, director, PMAI Australian Activities told Photo Counter.

‘The decision taken two years ago for PMA and PICA to join COSBOA (The Council Of Small Business Of Australia)was to help in a closer understanding of what is being planned in Canberra as well as to join the lobby, in furthering the interests of small business.

‘The policy issues COSBOA adopt include a fairer treatment of small business by banks, a voice in development of employment policy and simplification of business procedures for small business (to name a few).

‘I understand The Opposition have a policy of introducing a senior role for the minister of small business if elected.

‘Small Business needs all the help it can get and if a Small Business Commission furthers that cause then it deserves our full support!’ he said.

– It’s passing strange that the close to 20 percent of voting Australians who are small business people are so politically enfeebled. That’s a big chunk of votes evenly spread over all electorates. The 20-odd percent of Australians who are union members seem to get some representation at the big table, and the tiny percentage of Australians which the various business lobbies represent certainly do.

I would assert that whoever – Lib or Lab – is running the place, the overseas-based mining behemoth Xstrata (for example) has provably more influence with our leaders than the two million small business owners employing five million Australians combined! So much for democracy.

Part of the neglect of small business’ need for a fair deal must surely be placed at the feet of COSBOA itself. It simply doesn’t seem to have the communication skills, passion, contacts or vision to be an effective voice. There’s a huge opportunity cost being paid by small businesses in having a weak and ineffectual peak body representing its interests.

Having said that, here’s what they argue. (I really don’t have a clue what they actually do to support what they say):

‘There are over 2 million individuals who run a small business. These people cannot be expected to have the same knowledge, skills, experience and resources as experts from medium to large businesses. A small business owner cannot possibly meet all the requirements asked from government, nor compete on an equal level with big businesses.

All political parties and most bureaucrats acknowledge the role played by small business in the economy, but over the last 20 years they have not shown that they understand that a small business is different from big business and must have different policy responses and different processes and rules.

COSBOA believes that we must give small business owners the same treatment and protection that we give consumers. For example we must not automatically view negotiations between experts from large business and the owner of small business as equal.

We can only expect small business owners to act like the individuals they are, and not to act like all the experts from a larger business such as a paymasters, accountants, OH&S experts, tax experts, apprenticeship and training experts and an expert on local rules and legislation.

Each small business owner will have some or many of these skills but not all of these skills. And, importantly, a small business owner has a family and a life outside work, and does not have the infrastructure to support them during life crises or stressful events outside the business.

Therefore the policies of government and the actions and requests from government must reflect the individual nature of small business.

In our campaign to make life fairer for people in their own business the main aims of COSBOA are to:
– Have governments treat small business as individuals and not expect them to have the same skills, knowledge, resources and capacity of big business;
– Decrease red tape and compliance costs on small business owners;
– Create a fairer market place for the owners of small business; and
– Provide support to small business owners who are in crisis or who are ready to grow.

Specifically COSBOA wants all political parties to commit to:
– Removing employers’ involvement in the collection of superannuation funds for their employees. This can be achieved by better use of the taxation system;
– Having a dedicated Small Business Minister in the federal cabinet;
– Having a dedicated Small Business Ombudsman or Small Business Commissioner operating in the federal bureaucracy. This is to ensure a fair go for small business and provide a person to whom a small business owner, or family, can go to when they believe they have been treated harshly;
– Developing a workplace relations system that acknowledges that a small business is run by an individual who cannot be expected to have the same ability and understanding as the paymaster of a large company;
– Giving small business owners the same protection from unfair contracts and unscrupulous behaviour by big business as provided to the consumer;
– Conducting a small business impact statement when any new significant retail development occurs in a town or community and ensure that the developer compensates the family of any business that is unfairly affected by the development;
– Completing an independent small business impact statement on any new policy proposal or any new legislation from the federal bureaucracy or parliament;
– Developing healthier workplaces that also considers the health of the small business operator/s to be important.’

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