Fast Lane: One year on, has the Coalition delivered for SMEs?

Fast Lane: One year on, has the Coalition delivered for SMEs?

This time a year ago we were all standing in queue at our local primary schools munching on burnt sausages.

The end result was a change of government and the election of the Tony Abbott-led Coalition.

Prior to the election there was a lot of promises from Abbott about what he would do in government for SMEs.

So has he delivered?

The short answer is, mainly yes, with some proposals still in the works. 

Here’s how the government fares on my checklist of its promises:

1. Small Business Minister in Cabinet

As promised small business retained its role in cabinet under the Coalition government.

Significantly, for the first time the role is held by a minister without numerous other ministerial commitments.

This has allowed Small Business Minister Bruce Billson to really drive forward the Coalition’s agenda for small business.

2. Small Business Ombudsman

This year’s budget delivered on the Coalition’s promise to replace the Australian Small Business Commissioner with a Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

The idea is the Ombudsman will have broader powers and act as a “concierge for dispute resolution”.

$8 million has been set aside for this.

3. Unfair contracts ?

$1.4 million was also set aside in the budget for the extension of unfair contract protections for small business.

The scheme will include legislative reforms to make unfair terms in standard form contracts with small business void.

The scheme is still at the consultation paper stage so it remains to be seen whether this one will get through 

4. A “root and branch” review of competition law

The long-awaited “root and branch” review of Australia’s competition law is now underway.

All that was promised was the review and whether it will result in real change remains to be seen, particularly as big business is already moving to stymie the review.

5. Reduce the company tax rate X

The government promised a reduction in the company tax rate of 1.5%.

As far as I know this is still on the cards but the cut hasn’t come through yet and the company tax rate is still sitting at 30%.

6. Abolish the carbon tax

It may have taken a while to get through the Senate but the Coalition government has made good on its promise of abolishing the carbon tax.

7. Cut $1 billion in red tape every year ?

The $1 billion reduction in red tape is a difficult one to assess. 

While the Coalition government has trumpeted “red tape repeal days” it has also been busy creating red tape just as quickly as it abolishes it.

A prime example of red tape creation was the government’s ill-fated proposal for job seekers to apply for 40 jobs a month.

8. Defer by two years the increase in compulsory employer-funded superannuation

The government has over-delivered here with the compulsory superannuation guarantee frozen for seven years.

It will not increase to 12% until 2025 thanks to a deal reached by the government and the Palmer United Party.

While the government’s one year report card looks pretty good for small business it’s important to note that the two most significant reforms, the company tax rate cut and competition review, are still in the pipeline.

There have also been some significant cuts to pro business policies, including scrapping the instant asset write-off and loss carry-back measures.

One year in, the Coalition government is on the right track for SMEs but there is still more to be done.


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