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What plans does the Albanese government have for SMEs?

For the first time in nearly a decade, Australia will begin the week with a Federal Labor government.

While it is still early, we try to figure out what business and startup sectors can expect from Anthony Albanese’s government in the near future.

Thousands of micro, small, and medium enterprises at the heart of the economy have suffered from months of lockdown to contain the virus and subsequent production restrictions.

Many of Anthony Albanese’s campaign promises were repeated in his victory speech, including strengthening medicare, addressing the aged care crisis, establishing a federal anti-corruption commission, and working collaboratively with businesses and unions to boost productivity, wages, and profits.

According to Mark Khabe, Co-Founder of PRIME BPM, as the Labor Party prepares to take power for the first time since 2013, SMBs hope that their numerous long-standing issues will be prioritised.

“It’s encouraging to see that the Labor party has recognised the pivotal role that the sector plays and has pledged its support to help SMBs bounce back from the disruptions of the last two years. 

“Greater government support will strengthen the sector’s contributions to employment creation and economic growth. However, SMBs need to see these policies play out in practice.”

Small Businesses are a priority

The Labor Party has promised to deliver on several small business issues throughout their campaign. More significant support for digital technology adoption, on the other hand, is clearly at the top of the list for SMBs.

“The post-pandemic world is digital. Therefore, stronger uptake of digital technologies will help SMBs drive more profit, expand their footprints and hire remote, borderless teams from any part of the world,” Mark added. 

“The Liberal government had laid out an ambitious vision of making Australia a top 10 data and digital economy by 2030. The Labor government needs to now live up to this promise. 

“We’re pleased to see that cash-flow issues are being addressed by the Labor party, which is a long-standing issue for SMBs. Likewise, Labor has committed to reducing the time small businesses spend doing taxes and cutting paperwork and regulatory red tape. We hope these are all positive initiatives to play out in practice.”

Furthermore, the Labor Party has pledged to address the issue of late payments for small businesses by ensuring that there is a mechanism in place for small businesses to receive payments within 30 days. Cash flow has long been a problem for small and medium-sized enterprises, and it has been exacerbated significantly by the economic difficulties of the last two years.

However, Chris Dahl, Director of Sales and Growth, Pin Payments, says it is not enough to save businesses already bleeding money. 

“We’re pleased to see that the Labor party has prioritised these. However, it is not enough to save struggling businesses,” he argues.

Second, Labor has pledged to strengthen SMEs’ bargaining power with more significant partners by illegal, unfair contract terms. Chris believes this is a significant step toward combating business inequality and injustice and protecting small businesses from corruption.

“Likewise, the Labor party promises to reduce small business transaction costs at the point of payment with a clear timeline for implementing least-cost routing. Small businesses are disproportionately impacted by higher transaction fees that eat into profits – around $804 million a year. 

“This is a welcome change for small business owners. Least cost routing allows a business to choose online route payments in a way that benefits them and their customers, which will hopefully encourage greater adoption of online payments for SMBs.”

Jobs and skills

The Labor party has already promised to tackle job insecurity and low wages head-on, likely addressing the skills shortage faced by SMEs.

“Labor promises to invest in the skills Australia needs to drive future economic growth in their campaign. “Labor will give Australians free TAFE, create more university places, and address the skill shortages impeding our COVID-19 comeback.”

The Labor Party’s jobs and skills development policies are promising in terms of skill shortages and employee upskilling. But according to Mark, the training initiatives and funds should not be limited to the Australian workforce.

“Many local businesses like ours rely heavily on talent overseas. Our strategy is borderless, so we have remote staff worldwide working as per Australian hours and an Australian head office. As digital transformation changes business operations, the government should not limit business and staff incentives to Australia,” Mark said. 

“The Labor government should support the digitalisation of businesses and understand that many SMBs now employ remote worldwide staff. The small business and digital policies should reflect that, as this will ultimately help Australia-based businesses to expand their global footprints and benefit the national economy.”

While Chris is optimistic about increasing jobs and skills through the 465,000 fee-free TAFE places for Australian students studying in skill-short industries.

“Small businesses may see a significant benefit from this, as upskilling employees will become easier and likewise talent will have access to skills programs through TAFE to upskill,” Chris said. 

“The 20,000 extra university places over 2022 and 2023 will also help fill the gap for industries suffering from skill shortages, which will immensely enhance the small business community. 

“While more significant investment in digital skills-based trades would have been beneficial for SMBs, it is encouraging that the Labor party is, at the very least, addressing jobs and skills in their policies.”

Better business sustainability practices

Sustainable business practices will be critical in 2022, and the government must address this as the most crucial issue for voters this year. 

Businesses must emphasise their operations and practices to fulfil their corporate responsibilities to the Paris Agreement and UN human rights standards regarding supply chain transparency.

“A myriad of environmental issues and considerations arise for businesses of all sizes. The Labor Government needs greater frameworks, regulations and support so businesses can ensure they’re adhering to standards. We hope to see this under the Albanese government,” Chris notes. 

“Likewise, the creation of stronger policies surrounding business sustainability will assist SMBs, who are often time-poor and have limited staff, to follow a clear framework or roadmap surrounding their environmental and climate-related duties. Businesses are often unaware that their operations are not in line with sustainability or lack the support or knowledge to change this.” 

“It’s the Labor government’s responsibility to ensure the business community acts by promises made under international treaties, including the Paris Agreement. These next four years, Albanese will be under public scrutiny as the world looks to combat climate change across every area of life, including business.”

Meanwhile, Mark believes that the Labor party, through the support of greater digitisation, will also back environmental sustainability. It enables remote working and reduces carbon emissions related to commuting. 

“Greater initiatives surrounding hybrid work models may reduce energy use related to reductions in office energy consumption. In terms of environmental and financial benefits, developing policies that yield co-benefits needs to be the focus of this government,” Mark adds.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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