COSBOA, BCA sign cooperation deal to dispel “David and Goliath” narrative between big and small businesses

COSBOA calls on all politicians to urgently reform the vocational training sector and empower local economies

COSBOA chief executive Peter Strong

The Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) will today sign a memorandum of understanding to foster cooperation between the two business groups and to jointly advocate for policies in areas of mutual interest, including tax reform. 

In this article, COSBOA chief executive Peter Strong and BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott explain why small and big businesses need each other, and why the two groups are committing to “eschewing the petty conflict of the past”. 

There is a familiar myth emerging in Canberra and in other parts of the country, one that seeks to pit small and large businesses against each other, framing us as natural enemies.

This ‘David and Goliath’ narrative, perpetuated by some politicians in Canberra, may be politically expedient but it doesn’t reflect reality for thousands of small business owners or the shareholders and managers of larger enterprise.

In fact, those running businesses, whether small or large, rely on each other to source the goods and services they need.

A smaller highly specialised business might join with a larger one in order to access bigger, international markets or, larger businesses may outsource some functions to smaller, more flexible local businesses.

The real story here is one of interdependence; the business community is just that — a community. To function efficiently, generate and attract investment, as well as providing much needed jobs, each segment needs to be strong.

The myth’s persistence is not only frustrating, it stifles our public debate about economic reform and risks Australia’s future prosperity.

Today our two organisations, the Business Council of Australia and the Council of Small Business of Australia, will sign a memorandum of understanding to acknowledge these facts and commit ourselves to eschewing the petty conflict of the past.

Whether big or small business owners, we rely on each other and our interests are better served through co-operation than they are through conflict.

The private sector, which includes all businesses, across the country generates 80% of Australia’s economic output; businesses employ 10 out 12 million Australians; and trade between businesses exceeds $500 billion a year.

Jennifer Westacott

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia. Source: AAP/Dean Lewins

The private sector is undoubtedly the powerhouse of Australian wealth and job creation. This is the investment which breathes life into towns and cities and which helps us build strong, vibrant communities.  What’s more, we know our best outcomes are achieved when we work together.

Take for example the Australian Supplier Payment Code, an initiative of the Business Council working with COSBOA, which commits bigger business to paying correct small business invoices within 30 days.

This industry led initiative already has over 50 signatories with a combined revenue of over $370 billion. Signatories are also working with their small business suppliers to improve invoicing systems and technology.

Where heavy handed government intervention might have resulted in an inflexible and ineffective “solution”, we have instead arrived at one that is working for small business owners and their bigger partners alike.

The agreement we will sign today will take this co-operation even further. We will advocate jointly in areas of mutual interest — starting first with the need for a fair and competitive tax system.

Businesspeople of all stripes have for the most part avoided playing the ‘David and Goliath’ game; we know that an attack on one segment of the economy is an attack on them all.

We’re sending this message clearly — it is in big businesses’ interests to see their smaller suppliers flourish and small business owners want to see their bigger consumers strong.

Australians know that a thriving business sector — small, medium and large — is the only avenue to our future prosperity.

The challenges we face in modernising and reinvigorating our economy are too great to let division get in the way of action. This alliance is about problem solving, not point scoring.

It isn’t a battle between David and Goliath as some would have you believe; a better analogy is Aesop’s bundle of sticks — we stronger and more effective together than we are divided.

Peter Strong is the chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia and Jennifer Westacott is the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia. 


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