2017 is expected to be a year of deliverables for small business and it is important that governments do not lose sight of the sector’s priorities, which would risk undermining future economic growth and prosperity, according to Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell.
“Whether it be small business tax cuts, competition reform, unfair contracts, government procurement or security of payments, governments – and oppositions – have indicated their support for small business, but now we need the rubber to really hit the road; for these measures to be up-and-running and to be proven solutions to a range of small business road-blocks,” Ms Carnell said.
“There are a lot of diverse interests competing for governments’ attention, but the one sector that sits across most – if not all policy areas – is small business, so governments at federal, state and local level must keep the sustainability and growth of this sector at the top of their agenda, if they’re to keep the broader economy growing.
“There are more than two million small businesses in Australia, employing close to four million people across the country. Unlike large businesses, the tax revenue generated by our SMEs is on the rise, so their importance should never be underestimated, and their growth shouldn’t be taken for granted,” she said.
While holding governments to account on their small business proposals and promises, Ms Carnell said the ASBFEO also has a packed agenda of its own for 2017.
“Having completed our Small Business Bank Loans Inquiry Report late last year, we will be actively working with the finance sector and ASIC to implement the changes we believe are necessary to restore balance between banks and their small business borrowers, including compliance with unfair contract term laws, along with ensuring a low cost dispute resolution mechanism is put in place to deal with past, present and future claims of small business mistreatment by their bank lender,” Ms Carnell said.
“Our inquiry into payment times and practices is now in full swing. We’ve had a significant response to the call for submissions and the office is busy going through these in order to report in March on just how bad the problem of late or no payments is for small business, and how we can turn this growing trend around.
“We’ve also finalised a small business statistics report which is a unique document pulling together a range of data to inform on a variety of areas including the size of the sector, its diversity, female participation, innovation and export market participation, which will be released shortly,” she said.
Other issues the ASBFEO has outlined in the 2017 Agenda include reducing Red Tape, improving SME access to government procurement, the promotion of best practice succession planning for family enterprises, and the importance of mental health for small business owners and their staff. A copy of the ASBFEO 2017 Advocacy Agenda can be found on the website: www.asbfeo.gov.au