Small businesses comprise 96 percent of all Australian enterprises. It is a sector that is only ignored at our greater peril, yet it is one to which this Labor Government has refused to listen. As 2011 winds down, the Coalition is looking ahead and considering the three big challenges that small business will face in 2012.
1. The carbon tax
The Labor Government refuses to discuss the impact of the carbon tax on small business. No compensation other than $40 million to fund publicity spruiking Labor’s spin.
Yet independent research commissioned by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry found that small business profits are likely to be slashed by up to 20 percent thanks to the carbon tax. And while some big businesses receive so-called ‘compensation’, small businesses have been left to languish.
Former Minister for Small Business Nick Sherry even admitted it is up to individual small businesses to determine how they will cope with even higher power bills next year. Earlier this year before a Senate enquiry Sherry said: “It is for the small business operators to best determine what change they want to make to adapt to changes in energy prices.”
2. Red tape
One of my main areas of focus as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Fair Competition is finding ways to cut the burden excessive regulation places on small business.
The Labor Government came to office on a promise of ‘one in, one out’—for each piece of regulation it introduced, it would rescind another. But since forming government, Labor has introduced more than 12,000 new regulations and repealed just 56. (No, that is not a typo).
In my discussions with small business owners, I know that the time and money you spend on complying with regulations—from tax issues, to occupational health and safety, to food handling—is immense. Every form is time away from your business or your family.
That is why the Coalition is committed to reducing regulatory costs by at least $1 billion per year in our first term. Tony Abbott has recently announced ‘The Coalition Deregulation Taskforce’ headed by Senator Arthur Sinodinis to come up with specific examples to cut.
3. Consumer sentiment
As many of you are all too aware, customers are keeping their hands in their pockets. Recent research from NAB described the Australian economy as “treading water” and noted business conditions had deteriorated for most industries in October. Another recent study by MYOB found only a fifth of small business owners expected Australia’s economy to improve over the next 12 months.
Fixing it requires fixing the budget, not rearranging the deck chairs and constantly lamenting international circumstances. We need to dump the carbon tax to keep Australia competitive, we need to rein in spending to secure a real surplus—not the hoax Labor is promising—and do whatever we can to support small business. Only if small business is strong will we have a strong economy.
—Senator Scott Ryan is Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Fair Competition and a Liberal Senator for Victoria.