Small business is a central pillar of the Australian economy, employing almost three million Australians and adding $312 billion to our economy; however small business confidence, profitability, cash flows and employment are all in negative territory according to the April NAB Small to Medium Enterprise Survey.
I suppose no-one should really be surprised at this given the Gillard Labor government’s mismanagement of the small business sector and its broader mismanagement of the economy.
Small business is the engine room of our national economy and should therefore be at the forefront of government’s thinking.
The fact that Labor has managed to create yet another budget deficit of at least $19 billion and peak net debt of $191 billion means there is no confidence for consumers to spend or small businesses to invest and employ.
It also means that the Labor government is competing with small businesses in the borrowing market.
It is clear that businesses are losing their confidence because they have little faith in the government, a government that cannot balance its own budget.
Small businesses are doing it tough all over Australia. I see it in my electorate.
Families are facing cost-of-living pressures and spending less because of the government’s mismanagement of the economy and the lack of certainty.
Labor has no respect for the small business sector. Over the life of this government, the small business share of the private sector workforce has fallen from 51.3 per cent to 45.7 per cent, and employment in this sector has fallen by 243,000.
The revolving door of small business ministers under Labor—we have seen five in 15 months—means that clearly no-one in this government is really understanding or has a real grasp on the issues that small businesses are facing.
By contrast, small business will be a cabinet portfolio within the Treasury department under a coalition government, which would put small business front and centre of economic analysis, policy formation and decision making.
The coalition was the first to put the small business portfolio in cabinet, and should we be elected we will be the first to ensure that small business policy and concerns are at the epicentre of economic decision making by including it in the key central agency of Treasury.
Because Treasury deals with whole-of-economy issues and the key influences on small business success including tax policy, competition laws, fiscal policy, access to finance and COAG reform initiatives, the coalition plans that the rate of small business growth will double as a result of abolishing the carbon tax—a huge cost on small business—by cutting $1 billion worth of red tape, which takes small businesses well into the night to do, and making sure that small business is represented on key economic regulatory bodies.
We have also announced that small business people will be either paid on time, or they will automatically receive interest payments under a coalition government.
This policy announced by the shadow Treasurer is about leading by example and treating small business people with the respect they deserve.
For small business, as we know, cash flow is king, which is why it is important that they are paid on time or at worst compensated for any late payment.
Under our policy, all small businesses that provide services to the Commonwealth will be either paid on time or paid interest whether they have a formal contract or not. This is just one part of our commitment to small business to help it not just survive but to grow and thrive.
There is no reason why Australia should not able to achieve an annual growth rate in the number of small businesses of around 1.5 per cent.
This is the rate of growth achieved under the former Howard government. This would mean adding approximately 30,000 new small businesses each year, double the growth in small business under Labor.
Establishing a genuine root-and-branch review of competition laws to ensure that small business can compete equally with big business is another way the coalition will help small business.
I have long campaigned for a fair go for small business and the coalition is certainly a key part of that.
The very best way to change the fortunes of small business for the better is to change the government.