By David Bates
Australia’s small business owners are the backbone of our economy. They employee the majority of Australian workers, are often at the epicentre of their local communities, and they pay wages and superannuation that secure livelihoods and retirements.
These small business owners pay every bill that comes their way, be it payroll tax, company tax, rent, electricity charges, insurance and many, many more.
They arrive at work early and often leave last.
Within their business, they wear many different hats: they are the managers, the human resource directors, the financial controllers and sometimes even the therapist for both their employees and customers alike.
You’d think we’d all be grateful for their efforts. After all, they aren’t big earners at the top end of town like the banks, giant utilities, or law firms. These are Australia’s mums and dads, busy working hard and employing millions of other mums and dads.
But our major political parties offer them nothing but lip service, let alone a begrudging and long-overdue ‘thank you’.
This is most clearly evidenced by the grindingly awful eight week long election campaign we have all just endured.
Labor’s policy on small business: whatever the unions tell us it should be.
The Coalition’s policy on small business: just be ‘flexible, agile, and innovative’ and everything will be fine.
Is it any wonder so many small business owners looked longingly across their near-metre wide Senate ballot paper, hoping to find a party that might offer them something a little more?
And is it any wonder why so many of Australia’s small business owners are wondering why they opened a business here in the first place?
In the UK, NZ, Canada and the US, small businesses can open with relative ease. Employment laws are clear and consistent, and free or low-cost assistance is generally just a phone call away.
Here, we have the Fair Work Act 2009, over 120 completely different (and hopelessly complex) so-called Modern Awards, 10 'National Employment Standards', different long service leave laws in every state and territory, millions of possible minimum wage combinations and incredibly complex tax and related compliance obligations.
And to top it all off, we have the Fair Work Ombudsman, perhaps the most ‘unfit-for-purpose’ Commonwealth agency ever created in our nation’s history.
The thousands of small business owners I meet each year all have one consistent refrain: they deserve so much better than this.
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