There are some common themes heard whenever I travel around the country. Last night I was in Sydney speaking at the Northern Sydney Conservative Forum to a packed house of over 300 guests.
The questions from the attendees were challenging and thoughtful, but it was during the informal discussion afterwards that many felt comfortable discussing the issues they feel need to be fixed.
Last night was notable due to the number of small business people who approached me. I learned that printing is now the largest manufacturing industry in Australia and myriad other operators expressed their frustration with regulation, bureaucracy and red tape.
In short, they felt that government was actually working against them and was an enemy rather than an ally.
That needs to change. Australian small business operators deserve better. Family businesses deserve better.
We’ve seen Bill Shorten’s union movement do deals with big business to trade away employee benefits in favour of union benefits. This has made it even harder for small and family businesses to compete with their predatory rivals.
The operational lifeblood of all business – electricity - has become unaffordable and unreliable entirely due to government decisions.
The level of administrative overhead levelled by the three tiers of government only compounds the daily woes of those who often risk it all to make a go of their entrepreneurial spirit.
These job-creating champions decline the cosy nest of government employment with its outsized benefits and job security. Our small business people are often paid last and paid least of those they employ and yet governments almost refuse to recognise their amazing contribution.
Sure, we hear lip service from the usual gaggle of ministers, boasting of lower taxes or some minor improvements. However, the truly substantive changes necessary are mostly ignored.
Small business needs flexibility to make critical decisions free of government interference. It needs the agility to adapt to changing business conditions without convoluted government processes. And importantly, it needs true champions for its interest in the public arena.
We know the union movement aren’t interested. They’d rather cosy up to big business for their own benefit. Disturbingly, few in either side of politics seem truly interested either.
They may boast of dropping tax rates but that is little comfort to the business not making any money because of the tens of thousands they spend on compliance and regulation.
Instead, we need root and branch review of every hurdle imposed by government. We need to repeal two business regulations for every new one introduced. We need to simplify the tax system to make compliance less onerous and expensive. We need employment flexibility for small business so they can build their team whilst also looking after the health and well-being of their venture.
Common sense tells us that if we continue to choke the creative and entrepreneurial edge that is the engine room of our prosperity, we will do enormous damage to our economic future.
It’s time for us to truly celebrate the hunger, the passion, the vision and innovation that is behind small business in Australia.
It’s time for government to become their ally instead of their greatest obstacle.