Does Australia need a small business party? One man believes the answer to this question is yes and he is aiming to secure a presence in the Senate at the 2016 election.
John Codrington is the National President of the Small Business Party of Australia Inc. (SBPA), a non-profit association that does not yet have the 500-550 founding financial members needed to obtain Australian Electoral Commission approval.
However, since starting a marketing campaign to grow its membership in April, Mr Codrington said close to 100 members had already signed up to the SBPA and he remains confident of reaching the AEC target by September.
The SBPA is a right leaning association but which hopes to capture a broad audience, including left leaning business owners. It is driven by a firm belief that the interests of small business owners are not being effectively represented in the national parliament by the major parties.
Its objective is for the small business community to have its own representative in Canberra. Instead of lobbying politicians for outcomes, Mr Codrington wants small business owners to have skin in the political game and a chance at real power.
“We’ll do what Clive Palmer’s doing at the moment. This is one of the things that has motivated us,” he told Dynamic Business. “Clive has set the example. Clive for years has been a prolific supporter of the LNP, but the hierarchy of the LNP never once conceded to his requests for what he believed needed to be done. And he thought, ‘If I can’t beat ‘em, I’ll join ‘em’. It (lobbying the major parties) won’t work. It hasn’t worked and will never work while you have vested interests in the major political parties.”
Taking heart from the most recent half Senate election results, Mr Codrington and a group of likeminded small business advocates believe they can take advantage of the growing trend away from the major parties.
“I was looking at the results, looking at Ricky Muir and we said what we need is someone in the Senate. The only way we can make change is through the Senate… Our intention is to field candidates in every state so we have a fair bit of work cut out for us. But we believe, particularly once we are registered as a non-parliamentary party, that we will get an enormous amount of support.”
On the SBPA website there is a ten point political platform or mission statement outlining the group’s main objectives. They include taxation reform, support for the manufacturing sector and changes to the Privacy Act. Mr Codrington also highlighted access to finance as a major issue and canvassed the revival of an institution similar to the Commonwealth Development Bank, a business/farmer lender that provided specialist assistance and which helped more than 400,000 businesses in its lifetime.
Mr Codrington announced his intention to register the SBPA with the AEC at the 12th national summit of the Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA) in Melbourne last week. COSBOA executive director, Peter Strong, told Dynamic Business he was not convinced of the need for a small business party, but wished Mr Codrington all the best in his endeavour.
“It’s not something that the Council has ever been focused on,” Mr Strong said. “The other thing is you tend to work with the main political parties to get the message across.”
But Mr Codrington is keen to press on with the plan and emphasises the grass-roots nature of the SBPA and the fact there are no professional politicians within its ranks or its 12 member executive. He believes this means the interests of small business owners will not be compromised should it win a Senate seat.
“Every one of the people on our executive, well there’s not a professional politician among us. We are self-employed business people. We are aware of the good times and we know what it is like when you get hit with a torpedo,” he said.
However, Mr Codrington said that some political decisions would need to be made in time, particularly in relation to preference deals. He stressed the SBPA was more right leaning than left leaning although it had no natural political rivals.
“We have already been approached by members of the Palmer United Party (PUP) and asked if we would consider preference arrangements. We are not in a position to discuss that with them until we are registered,” he said.