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21 September 2016

Small business a unifying force in the senate - MySmallBusiness

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: what does a former fish and chip shop owner, a broadcaster and a lawyer have in common?  It’s not actually a riddle; I am of course talking about Pauline Hanson, Derryn Hinch and Nick Xenophon; a trio who, when it comes to identifying similarities – notwithstanding their membership to the Senate – can hardly be described as being separated at birth.

But one of the commonalties they and their fellow independent and micro-party Senators do share, is their pragmatic approach to small business.

Described by the media and political pundits as an ‘unwieldly’ and ‘feral collection’, the Senate – with its 11-member crossbench – is expected to put the Government’s negotiating skills to the test when it comes to passing the Coalition’s legislative agenda.

But the one thing the Government is unlikely to have to horse-trade over, is small business ‘friendly’ legislation. 

Amidst their diverse range of views and pet-projects, a look at the policies of the crossbench – and indeed the Greens – reveals a sensible and practical outlook on small businesses. 

Senator Xenophon perhaps puts it best when he says “Government must play an integral role in fostering small business growth and in doing so reduce bureaucratic obstacles.”

While some, like Senator Xenophon, are rather precise in their ideas for the small business sector, others are less so, but they’re all generally pro-small business and there’s nothing to suggest the entire crossbench won’t be an 11-member small business cheer-squad.

So there’s certainly fertile ground there for the Government to develop and pass measures throughout the life of the 45th Parliament, that sets the sector on the path to success both now and well into the future.

This includes the passage of legislation giving tax breaks to small businesses with an annual turnover of up to $10 million.  For people running businesses of this size, tax savings don’t tend to go in their back pocket; mum-and-dad business owners typically reinvest this money into their enterprise; they buy more equipment and they hire more staff, so passing these tax cuts is fundamental to growth in the sector and the wider economy.

Cracking down on the misuse of market power by big business is another key measure the Government should have no trouble getting through the Upper House, given some on the crossbench – and the Greens – have said they support adopting an ‘effects test’ for Section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act. 

I’m also optimistic about the implementation of the Government’s Youth Jobs PaTH Programme to help create opportunities that benefit small businesses, while also addressing youth unemployment.

Small businesses are commonly described as being the ‘engine room of the economy’; it’s a lot to live up to, but with the right settings in place, it’s an expectation the sector is more than capable of fulfilling. 

And with the Senate crossbench effectively on a small business unity ticket, I see no reason why the Government’s measures in this space won’t soon be implemented, providing much needed confidence for small businesses around the country to grow, invest and employ. 

Now, have you heard the one where a former fish and chip shop owner, a broadcaster and a lawyer walk into a bar…

Kate Carnell, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO)