SME industry white paper on the way

A gathering of key figures engaged in the SME sector was held in Canberra last week to help thrash out the basics of a proposed industry led small business white paper.

The proposal, championed by the Institute of Public Accountants, is intended to outline the sector’s key challenges, make recommendations and inform next year’s budget.

IPA chief executive, Andrew Conway, said the Canberra summit was a success and general agreement was reached on the key points to be canvassed in the document.

Mr Conway told Dynamic Business the seven priority areas identified for further reform included tax policy, competition policy, access to finance, regulation, innovation and the development of regional trading links. He said the aim was to have the white paper submitted to government by the end of the calendar year.

Stakeholders who attended the meeting last Wednesday included the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kate Carnell, the Australian Small Business Commissioner, Mark Brennan, National Australia Bank general manager of small business, David Bannatyne and Deputy Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Dr Michael Schaper.

“There was broad agreement on the seven key policy areas that we identified as part of that white paper process,” Mr Conway told Dynamic Business. “The critical thing for us is actually being able to prosecute the case for policy change but backed by evidence and research.”

Mr Conway said the white paper was an attempt for industry to try and do the “heavy lifting” for government. “You really need to have your homework done and serve up items to government,” he said.

The white paper will suggest new ways to ease the tax and regulatory compliance burden on small business. Mr Conway also said that encouraging innovation was crucial to helping the SME sector.

“If we don’t help small business position in that changing technology space then unfortunately our businesses will be left behind,” he said. “There will be someone out there doing it faster, smarter and lower cost than us.”

Chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia Peter Strong said that the planned industry white paper was a good idea. “Anything that goes to government is good as long as it involves all the industry,” he said.

However, he warned that the further development of the paper’s recommendations should “not be an exclusive club”.

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