Today we congratulated the Prime Minister elect, Tony Abbott, on his comprehensive election win.
We are excited at the prospect of working with a government that has a powerful mandate to focus on the small business people in Australia. We especially look forward to getting rid of unnecessary red tape, confronting the issues of bullying by the big landlords and the damaging domination by the Coles-Woolworths duopoly.
COSBOA knows that small business people are tired of rhetoric about the importance of small business people, rhetoric that has been rarely matched by action. But the last eighteen months has seen many positive changes and announcements. After Julia Gillard appointed Brendon O’Connor as the Small Business Minister and also made him a Cabinet member we saw a greater emphasis placed on small business as people. The Treasury department created a Small Business Tax Division and many other Departments started to focus on small business.
We acknowledge those in the Labor Party who worked hard for the small business person. Julia Gillard also included us in all their industry forums and on key economic panels, Brendon O’Connor built a framework that resulted in an improved focus on small business people. We know that Chris Bowen, Gary Gray and Bernie Ripoll, with more time, would have built upon that foundation.
But in the end the lack of certainty at the leadership level of the Labor Party, and the government, was not sustainable and effected confidence for too long. For the sake of the economy a change was needed.
Small business people and their employees have sent a strong message that we want stability not uncertainty. For our part COSBOA will continue to fight the good fight, unambiguously, for small business people. We look forward to our first meeting with Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey, and particularly with Mr Billson who we expect to be the Minister for Small Business. Mr Billson has been a shining light for small business people and we know we can work together to have healthy small businesses and healthy small business people.
The coalition promised a root and branch review of competition policy as well as changes to contract processes to make sure there is transparency and fairness for the small business person. These reviews and changes should not be sullied by interference from the duopoly or the likes of the Franchise Council of Australia and the Shopping Centre Council, two organisations that know the negative impact of poor competition policy and poor contract law but fight to maintain unfairness and the capacity to bully without recourse for the small business person. Too many people have lost everything because they were optimistic and trusting of the giants of industry. We will be pleased to see the protection afforded these unworthy members of the business community removed.
The other policies around red tape removal and proper assessment of processes foisted on small business should also create positive change.
The one thing that was not concentrated on in the election was workplace relations. This needs a long hard looking at. Penalty rates are too high and the system is still too complicated for small business people. Tony Abbott did promise that he would set up a help line for people employing for the first time, which is good and something we have asked for over the years. Importantly he also said that workplace relations should be about practicality not ideology – music to small business ears.
So now we can take a big breath, count to ten and start all over again with a new government.