Queensland small businesses could have more support after the coming federal election if independent senate candidate Michael Kaff is elected.
Kaff told SmartCompany Queensland’s Gold Coast has been without a senator for 32 years and if his election bid is successful, he would give the region it’s first upper house representation since then.
Kaff’s campaign focus is on small business support, as well as inspiring startups and entrepreneurship across Queensland.
His passion for small business comes from experience: he owned and operated an accounting practice called Kaff & Co in Sydney when he was younger, selling it in 1992.
More recently, Kaff has taught at colleges and TAFEs, and currently runs Boomer Business Basics, a mentoring and training service for Baby Boomers returning to the workplace.
Kaff registered as an independent candidate last Wednesday and says he his campaign has been going “slowly but surely” to date.
“I’m just trying to get out there as much as I can, I’ve been chatting to a lot of people and they like what I stand for”, Kaff says.
Kaff’s policies range from supporting the arts to taxation relief for small business, and he says he has no interest in being a “narrow independent.”
“I’ve had a few people tell me to narrow down my policies, like Nick Xenophon with pokies,” Kaff says.
“I have too many interests and I support too many things to be so narrow.”
One of Kaff’s key policies is tax relief, for both small businesses and those paying personal income tax.
“It’s good to have tax rate reduction over time, but this doesn’t support startups or entrepreneurs,” Kaff says.
“These people need a hand up, and that’s what I want to offer.”
Kaff proposes when starting up a small business, individuals should pay no tax on income in their first year of earning, followed by a reduced tax rate in their second year.
This would be restricted to individuals and not applied to incorporated businesses, to eliminate any abuse of the system.
Kaff also wants to establish a mentoring system for small businesses and entrepreneurial youth to foster new ideas coming through communities.
He says this would operate similarly to the government-run New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS), but will be available to everyone.
“This will help the new business owners by giving them guidance and support, and make them less prone to failure in their early years,” Kaff says.
“We’re also planning to employ Baby Boomers as mentors in order to benefit from their years of knowledge an get them back into the workforce.”
Another helping hand for businesses could come through as interest-free loan offers, says Kaff.
Having ran two businesses, Kaff says he is “very much aware of the challenges that owners face”.
“If you haven’t got money to buy your assets, it’s quite difficult to get your business off the ground,” Kaff says.
“I want [government] to offer no- or low-interest loans, so small businesses can build their businesses and pay their money back over time.”
Kaff says this initiative would leave businesses with more money to invest back into the community and enable them to employ more people.
“It’s all about making people self-sufficient, and supporting people who want to give back,” he says.
Coming from a background as a performing artist, Kaff is also a firm believer of supporting innovation through the arts.
“I want to get involved with projects that are going to employ other artists, I’m very passionate about supporting the arts,” Kaff says.
Kaff believes artistic endeavours allow young entrepreneurs to think outside the box and to think creatively, which inspires innovation in all sectors.
“It’s all about expanding on expertise, genuine entrepreneurs in all areas, they are the backbone,” he says.
With industrial relations reform likely to be a key issue for anyone elected in the July 2 election, Kaff says he is in favour of reducing penalty rates, which is says would help smaller businesses.
“I really think that double time on Sundays is enough, and there shouldn’t be a difference between Saturdays and Sundays,” Kaff says.
“A reduction would allow for more people to be employed and businesses can stay open longer.”
While Kaff says he recognises the support for penalty rates from young workers, he believes the overall economy benefits outweigh the cons.
“If we’re going to support this economy, we need to take some unpopular steps and be practical,” he says.
Throughout his campaigning, Kaff says he’s seen a lot of support and received great feedback.
Although he recognises the road ahead of him is tough, he hopes Gold Coast voters will get behind him and his beliefs.
“I’ve got five weeks to get 100,000 votes, and I’m still attending talks and trying to get known,” Kaff says.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me they like what I’m standing for, and I’m just trying to look after the individuals.”
“The small guys do become the big guys eventually.”