Business tells Gillard to get on with it – here are three business priorities for the Government

Business groups have welcomed yesterday’s leadership ballot, saying having Julia Gillard remain prime minister delivers certainty to small business. But they have also warned they want the Government to start focusing on more pressing matters.

Business leaders have also called for unity within the Labor Party, despite the fallout from Kevin Rudd’s leadership challenge, noting businesses are continuing to fail and the carbon tax is only five months away.

Council of Small Businesses of Australia chief executive Peter Strong told SmartCompany this morning that now the ballot is over and done with, more attention should be focused on small businesses – despite the resignation of Small Business Minister Mark Arbib.

“We need better policies, and there are people in the Labor Party that agree we need better policies. My job is to ensure they understand that.”

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson said yesterday he congratulated the Prime Minister on her win, but said there is now a need for more unity.

“I think the business community is looking for that to be manifest in actions not just in words, because we not only have had this destabilisation in the leadership, but it’s been on top of what was already a very fragile, and still is, political situation.”

Anderson also said Australia has “enormous” challenges ahead, and that in order to confront those, “we need a stable, experienced Government”.

“We must attack the problems of lack of business confidence, low consumer confidence.”

It’s definitely true the current political climate isn’t helping consumer confidence. To help ease the nerves of small businesses, here are three specific things the Government should be focusing on.

Delivering a surplus budget without hurting business

The 2012-13 budget is only a few months away, and this year is especially important – the Government has promised a surplus.

Early predictions from Deloitte Access Economics suggest the Government may have an easier time delivering a surplus this year, but it will still be a challenge. Entitlements and spending are going to be scrapped, and there will be a number of tough decisions.

The Government needs to ensure as many spending programs can be cut without reducing small business confidence. Taking the axe to crucial business programs would be a disaster, and while there are no hints anything of the sort may even occur, it’s appropriate to reinforce that point when the economy is so fragile.

Focusing on the Fair Work review – and being open to change

It’s hard to argue the Government isn’t focusing on Fair Work given the extensive review process currently underway, but it can always deserve more attention – and does.

There are simply too many unknowns within the industrial relations system that need fixing. Issues over transitional award rates, aspects of bargaining and flexibility clauses are tough to figure out by themselves, but, some of the time, entrepreneurs can’t even get the right information from the Fair Work office itself.

The Fair Work review is a good start. The Government needs to make it front and centre, and give it the attention it deserves.

Business tax working group

The Business Tax Working Group has delivered a number of fascinating proposals around the idea of tax losses, including the ability for businesses to claw back loss payments they’ve made in previous years.

Their ideas have serious merit, but they aren’t being given enough attention by the Government. Providing this taskforce with enough attention can create debate around this idea and give confidence to millions of small businesses.

Julia Gillard has promoted herself as a prime minister who can get things done. Focusing on these three topics, and then introducing some subsequent changes, could improve small business confidence and hopefully get people spending again.



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