COSBOA chief casts doubt over new association’s motives

The chief of industry peak body the Council of Small Business of Australia has called a new SME association a “marketing exercise” and cast doubt over whether it will genuinely enhance the interests of small firms.


As reported by StartupSmart, the SME Association of Australia was officially unveiled by small business minister Nick Sherry on Friday.


The non-profit body has signed a services agreement, which includes events and subscriptions, with CommStrat, a company that publishes MyBusiness magazine. Matthew Johnson, the founder of SMEAA, is also CommStart’s CEO.


SMEAA chief Caroline Hong told StartupSmart the group would not lobby government but that its motives were “completely altruistic.”


However, Peter Strong, executive director of COSBOA, says that the association should be clearer as to its role.


“The motivations are to make money, I think it’s fair to say,” he says. “Let’s not be ambiguous as to its role – what will it do? We shouldn’t muddy the water as to whether this is a voice of small business or not.”


“The more people standing up for small businesses the better, but I think this is a marketing exercise for MyBusiness.”


“They claim to be the voice of small business, but they have no members yet. COSBOA came together because lots of different associations wanted to have one voice. If we muddy the water with more associations, it allows for us to be potentially divided and conquered.”


Strong also has doubts over whether SMEAA will be focused on the interests of small businesses, rather than large companies.


On its website, SMEAA offers membership packages starting at $110 a year for sole traders. However, there is also a “large business membership” option, costing $1,100 a year, for businesses with over 200 employees.


Strong says: “We make a point of never saying that small businesses can be better. They aren’t dumb. We fight on the issues that matter for small businesses. Ultimately, I’m worried that this association will represent big business.”


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