Business leaders have given a mixed reaction to the re-election of the Labor government, with a prominent industry group admitting that more needs to be done to get start-up companies back on the political agenda.
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Peter Strong, executive director of Council of Small Business of Australia, welcomed the potential “level playing field” offered by the National Broadband Network and praised the portable bank account number policy put forward by the Greens, which are allied to the Labor government.
However, Strong said that he regretted the fact that many of the Coalition’s small business policies would not be acted upon.
“The Coalition offered protection from unfair contracts, which would help when one small business owner has to negotiate with the likes of Westfield,” he told StartupSmart. “It’s unfair and ridiculous to call that a fair negotiation.
“We’re also disappointed that there will be no small business ombudsman. Small business would’ve finally had someone they could go to with their grievances.”
Strong claimed that small business issues were noticeably missing during the election campaign, particularly from Labor.
“When Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister, we got a much better hearing,” he said. “When Julia Gillard came in, we seemed to fall off the face of the Earth as an issue. Her focus was big business and the unions, so our job now is to talk to the independents, as they are more focussed on small businesses.”
“Our job is to get small businesses back in the headlines and we will be having more meetings with ministers to help do this. In this election, I’d guess that 30% of small businesses voted for Labor, so I think we have a big influence on the election.”
“We are pushing policies, not a political party. We need to show the human face of small business. Why should we let a business like Westfield bankrupt someone? There are families behind these small businesses.”
The Australian Industry Group congratulated Gillard, with its CEO Heather Ridout saying: “A stable government is important to business and the wider community but equally we need a government that works – one that can make tough decisions around contested areas that are fundamental to longer-term prosperity.”
Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, says: “The ARA expects the new minority Gillard government to always give ample consideration to the important role the retail sector plays as Australia’s largest employer and the role small business plays as the engine room of the nation’s economy.”
“Similarly, retailers would expect the Greens to use their balance of power in the Senate to ensure small and independent businesses are given political clout over any negotiation of legislation in the Senate. “
Kate Carnell, CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council says: “Industry welcomes the support for a national food plan from both major parties and the Greens as well as increased focus over recent days from independent senator Nick Xenophon.
“Industry looks forward to working with all sides of politics to ensure Australia has a safe, robust, affordable and sustainable food industry that continues to grow into the future.”