An advocate for any group of people has to have information that gives that group some sort of relevance in the world of politics. Politicians and policy makers all like to talk about how important small business is, click and when push comes to shove as an election approaches we are seen as particularly important in the sense of votes; we can have an impact on an election.
COSBOA is very aware of this and in the past commissioned research into the make up of the top 20 marginal federal seats and the impact that small business may have during an election. This research shows that small business owners are a key group that helped decide the last election and will help decide the next election.
Those figures showed that anywhere between 11% and 18% of voters in marginal electorates are the owners of a small business, which is highly significant when you look at the actual margins in these seats of between 0.04% and 3.00%. Our research also shows that a more specific group of business operators, such as independent retailers, can still have a say in the election with representation from shopkeepers being anywhere between 1.4% and 2.2% in these highly marginal electorates. Other research shows that small business owners make up a large component of swinging voters. As a rule of thumb around 30% to 40% will vote for the Coalition, 30% of these people will vote for Labor, and the other 30% to 40% will make up their minds as we head to Election Day.
As an example of the power of small business owners and their capacity to influence elections we believe that it was these people who threw out a sitting Prime Minister. There are over 13,000 small businesses in the electorate of Bennelong, the then electorate of John Howard, and it is obvious that these small business owners did not like what the government of the day had to offer and did not vote for the Prime Minister of the day as their local member. There are also almost 14,500 small business owners in the seat of McEwen which is the seat once held by Fran Bailey, the Minister for Small Business in the Howard government, and in 2007 she held onto her seat by just 31 votes which is a massive swing against the government. Fran Bailey was a well respected and hard working local member and Fran was a great advocate and a great fighter for small business as a Minister, but she was not in cabinet and could not get her voice heard by the big business supporters that ran our country. Small business threw out that government.
It is also important to note that small business does not vote as a block; they are individuals who will vote on any number of factors depending upon their personal circumstances including health, education, retirement support, defence, social policy and immigration laws. Nobody can tell a business operator how to vote or which party has the best policy, they will make up their own minds, but COSBOA will make sure they have the information needed to make an informed vote. We will provide information to business owners in selected marginal seats on the candidates and the major parties’ policy response to issues such as workplace relations, red tape, competition policy, unfair behaviour of the banks and retail leasing, among others. In partnership with other small business bodies we will be seeking policy statements from the main parties on certain key issues and we will then conduct mail outs with this information to local business people.
Currently Coles and Woolworths have control of the retail and as a result our groceries are some of the most expensive in the western world. The big landlords have control of retail leasing and in recent times small retailers’ profits have plummeted while big retailers’ profits have grown. Our whole culture has been affected as we get less choice and more of what big business wants. So which party will stand up and be counted as true supporters of small business in the next election? Which party will give us an effects test? Will Turnbull or Shorten respond to the real needs of small business?
The votes of small business operators will be crucial to this election as they were at the last election. If you or your organisation wants to be part of this approach contact me through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is a copy of the information we sent to small business people in 2010.