Australia’s 2.4m small businesses have been invisible in Australian politics and public affairs for a long time.
Of the total Australian workforce of 11.5 million:
8 million are in small business.
1.7 million work for government.
1.7 million are in medium and big business.
These figures suggest that the most prominent and most powerful economic and political voice in Australia should be small business.
In fact, the voices of self-employed people and those they employ are rarely heard in government, public policy or the media. Big business and big unions drown out the voices of the little people in the Australian economy.
Being diverse and fragmented, small firms lack a strong, unified voice. Politically, we lack the direct sponsorship of the two major parties whose first allegiance is to big business and trade unions respectively.
Being political orphans, we have been trapped in an economic and political no-man’s land, caught between the anti-competitive practices of big business and the anti-enterprise practices of trade unions.
Until Australia’s 2.4m small businesses create a major political voice for ourselves, we will continue to be squeezed.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of regional communities. Socially, small businesses are vitally important to local communities. The social and regional contribution of small businesses, as well as their employment role, have long been ignored by governments.
1. Abolish business taxes for firms employing less than 20 people including land and payroll taxes, and energy surcharges.
2. Exempt businesses which employ less than 20 people from the requirement to collect superannuation contributions by transferring this function to the Australian Tax Office.
3. Fund the increase in employee superannuation from 9% to 12% by tax cuts, not by an additional impost on employers. Tax cuts should be paid directly into super accounts by the ATO to achieve the 12% threshold.
4. Overhaul federal and state industrial relations systems to recognise the needs of businesses which employ less than 20 people as being different from the needs of big business, and which require greater flexibility including exemption from penalty rates and unfair dismissal legislation.
5. Establish in each federal electorate a Small Business Support Agency for local small and micro-businesses to provide practical business support including:
a. access to local employment, investment, retail and housing data, collected and curated for use by local businesses which employ less than 20 people;
b. information and advice on licencing, regulation and compliance issues;
c. shared training and workforce development;
d. shared access to a common pool of casual staff; and
e. shared purchasing arrangements.
Each Agency would be independent but backed by the Commonwealth and funded with an annual allocation of $2m, and governed by an independent board.
6. Introduce a 15% for 15% Scheme to reward small businesses that make strong contributions to their communities: small businesses which donate 15% of more of their net profit to community, school and sporting groups would receive a 15% rebate on their annual tax liability.
7. Overhaul government tendering processes to remove discrimination against small business and consortia of small businesses.
8. Remove all federal and state restrictions on the right of small businesses to collectively negotiate with suppliers, acquirers and franchisors.
9. Restrict licensing fees for all business activities to cost-recovery rates so as to prevent licensing fees from being used as revenue-raising instruments for governments. Fees for ASIC searches should be removed.
10. Assign real powers to Small Business Ombudsmen or Commissioners to function as independent public statutory offices to investigate and act on discriminatory conduct against small businesses, unreasonable exercise of market power by supermarket and fast food chains and other corporations against suppliers and producers, and disputes between governments and small businesses.
11. Require the introduction of Small Business Impact Statements in all major policy initiatives and major project developments.
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