We are almost at the end of 2019, and with the end of a year comes the opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and, of course, to make lists. Lots of lists.
COSBOA published 48 articles and press releases on this website in 2019 and, using a carefully crafted and totally scientific formula, we combed through them all to bring you the top ten. It's an interesting reflection of the issues that matter most to the COSBOA community. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular topics were industrial relations, elections, and energy/ environment.
Posts were awarded two points for each view on our website and one point for engagements on social media (likes, comments, shares and clicks). So, without further ado, we bring to you the definitive list of COSBOA's ten most popular posts of 2019:
(Australia's workplace relations system scares many small businesses out of employing people).
The idea of "wage theft" became a big issue in 2019 after the revelation that a high-end restaurant business owned by celebrity chef George Calombaris had mistakenly underpaid its staff by close to $8 million. Business owners around Australia were then put under scrutiny with many claiming that a culture of deliberately underpaying workers was pervasive.
At COSBOA we firmly believe that the majority of small business owners are good people who want to do the right thing by their staff. Despite what some people may say, it can be very difficult to navigate our overly complex award system and work out the right amount to pay. Compelling evidence for this is that even Maurice Blackburn, the law firm that represents Unions, revealed that it had accidentally underpaid its staff. It's hard to believe that a firm that represents Unions would do something like that on purpose.
This post was written when Woolworths revealed that it too had underpaid its staff. It links to an article written by our CEO in the Australian Financial Review entitled "Change the rules? It's about time."
9.Imagine a Small Business Party with control of the cross bench in parliament. Don't imagine anymore.....
At the beginning of 2019, all eyes were on New South Wales and the state election coming up in March. Normally COSBOA doesn't support political parties but we made an exception for the Small Business Party lead by Angela Vithoulkas. Angela had experience running a successful small business which, like many others, was ultimately forced to close in 2018 due to the construction of light rail in Sydney. She became a successful advocate for small businesses in New South Wales affected by light rail and other construction projects.
The party, in its first attempt, didn't get a seat in the senate but it certainly established itself as a force to be reckoned with.
(COSBOA Directors Elizabeth Skirving, Sandy Chong and Christine Pope, and COSBOA staff member, Tara Highet, at the launch of the Academy for Enterprising Girls at Parliament House)
In November 2018, COSBOA received a grant from the federal government under the Future Female Entrepreneurs Program to create the Academy for Enterprising Girls (AEG), a digital platform and series of workshops to teach business skills to girls. Our consultants at 89 Degrees East worked on the project all year and it was officially launched at Parliament House in December. On the same day as the launch, we announced that in addition to the AEG, we would be starting a "Women of COSBOA" initiative to champion female entrepreneurship. The media release we put out about it was our second most popular Facebook post of 2019 and 8th most popular post overall. We're thrilled at the positive response and will release more information about this initiative in 2020.
(The self employed are not robots. Enough said).
About mid way through the year we were made aware of a Safework Australia review into WHS laws, also known as "The Boland Report." This report recommends that the definition of safety be expanded to include mental health (which in of itself is not a bad idea), but fails to consider that employers and the self-employed also have mental health needs. It also recommends the introduction of industrial manslaughter charges, where an employer would be investigated if an employee self harms. This shows a lack of understanding of mental health.
Our CEO has had meetings with Safework Australia since the publication of this article but he reports that they unfortunately seemed uninterested in the mental health of employers and were more interested in SWA and protecting its power base.
(The COSBOA Board of Directors and CEO with the summit event planners)
Our 6th most popular post was a summary of our National Small Business Summit which took place in Melbourne in August. It was a fantastic event and a highlight of the year. The post takes you through the key messages from the ten sessions. Topics include:
What regulators such as ASIC, the ATO, the Fair Work Ombudsman and AFCA are doing to support small business
Technology, the NBN and accounting
Emerging issues for small businesses
The gig economy
Working with government
Access to finance
Health and well being for small business operators
The digital economy
The date and location for the 2020 NSBS have already been announced as the 27th and 28th of August at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. Make sure you put it in your calendar!
5. COSBOA calls for better parenting from APRA AMCOS and the PPCA with their new baby, OneMusic Australia
(A visual depiction of OneMusic Australia, the arrogant hipster who swallowed a dictionary - straight rhythms are too simple and transparent for him).
This year the surprisingly controversial issue of using copyrighted music in businesses was put in the spotlight. The Australasian Performing Rights Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS) and the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA), the former being responsible for collecting royalties for musical works and latter responsible for collecting royalties for sound recordings, teamed up to create a mega 'shadow regulator' called OneMusic Australia, a new venture that allows businesses to get one licence that covers both rights.
It's a shockingly complicated system and some of the worst red tape we have ever encountered. This post outlines the main problems we see with APRA AMCOS and OneMusic Australia: unreasonably high fees, licence guides full of "gobbledygook," and inaccurate royalty distribution that favours popular, international artists at the expense of smaller artists.
APRA AMCOS has reached out to us for discussion since the publication of this article. We've learnt that the majority of people who work there are lovely and well-intentioned, but our opinion on the organisation itself hasn't changed.
(Penalty rates hadn't gone down enough to make a difference)
Penalty rates have been a huge topic for years now. In April our CEO was quoted out of context and had to set the record straight. This post goes over the history of Sunday penalty rates, from the introduction of the Fair Work system in 2009 to the dodgy deals that unions did with big businesses and the Fair Work Commission's 2017 decision to gradually lower the rates. It explains that the real reason why this decision hasn't had a positive impact on small businesses - yet - is that penalty rates have only decreased by 4%.
This was the most viewed article on our website but didn't get enough attention on social media to make it higher than fourth place.
(The self-described "Liberal Green", Paul Frasca, accepting the Small Business Champion award at the 2019 Summit - unfortunately Ewelina couldn't be there)
The winners of COSBOA's 2019 National Small Business Champion award were Paul Frasca and Ewelina Soroko, co-founders of Sustainable Salons, a venture that has been described as an "above-ground mining business" for the hairdressing industry. Participating salons have up to 95% of their waste collected and repurposed for environmental and community benefit. For example, the shampoo bottles they collect are used to make frames for glasses and the hair that they collect is used to create hair booms that soak up oil spills. Pretty impressive!
This was our most popular post on Facebook for 2019 but the actual article on our website didn't get the views it needed to make it into first place overall.
2. Compare small business polices: do you agree on our ratings?
(Table with COSBOA's ratings for the major parties' policies going into the election)
Unsurprisingly, the federal election in May garnered a lot of attention, and as with every federal election, COSBOA put together a document that compared and rated the policies of the major parties that pertained to small business. This year the document was a record nine pages long, demonstrating an increased commitment to supporting small business.
In summary, the Coalition came out on top for every issue except for taxation policy and process, where it was equal to Labor, and energy and climate policy, where it performed quite poorly (not that Labor was much better). This document provides some interesting food for thought in light of the events of the second half of the year - no doubt some of us are relieved that Labor didn't get the chance to implement its wage policy while others remain frustrated at the Coalition's approach to energy and climate. Some of us are probably relieved and frustrated at the same time. And speaking of energy, our number one post for 2019 was...
1. Our Light Bulb Moments
OK, we're cheating a bit here - it may not technically have been an article but this corny song about energy prices was by far the most popular COSBOA publication of 2019. Energy management was a hot topic this year, especially in the lead up to the federal election. Unfortunately not much has changed in this department since the beginning of the year, but we will continue to advocate for better energy policies in 2020.
The lyrics of this song were mostly inspired by the results of the survey in our report, COSBOA Energy Bill Shock: Future-proofing Small Businesses, (which was released in January this year) as well as what we heard at our Energy Summit in March.
Bonus: 3 popular COSBOA articles published elsewhere
Sometimes our CEO writes opinion pieces for newspapers and other publications. We didn't have access to how many views these articles got, but here are three of Peter's articles that were popular on social media in 2019: