COSBOA election comparison gives Coalition the edge on energy and mental health, but supports Labor on merchant fees

interview question boot small business

Source: AAP/Lukas Coch.

The Council of Small Business Associations (COSBOA) has released its pre-election rating of small business policies, giving kudos to the Coalition for its approach to energy prices and mental health support, while acknowledging the Labor Party for its approach to monitoring merchant fees in the card payment system.

COSBOA released the election policy comparison table Wednesday, assessing 12 policy areas the peak body considers vital to the small business sector.

They include workforce shortages, the cost of doing business, industrial relations, disaster preparedness, and tax reform, among other high-profile discussion points in the SME sector.

“There has been good bipartisan support for many of the major issues,” COSBOA said, while encouraging small businesses to “make up your own mind” about each party’s platform.

On the cost of doing business — a pivotal concern for small businesses as inflation spikes and interest rates lift from record-low levels — COSBOA found the Coalition’s platform more closely aligns with its own.

COSBOA gave a strong 9/10 ranking to the Coalition for its approach to lowering energy prices for small businesses, including its pledge to spend $60 million on grants supporting energy-efficient equipment upgrades, a boosted energy advice program, and the implementation of new, gas-fired plants in the Hunter Valley.

Labor scored 7/10 for its energy approach, which includes support for the $60 million grant scheme, and a $20 billion grid upgrade plan to facilitate more renewable electricity generation.

As supply chain crunches flow through to small businesses across the map, COSBOA put the Coalition’s manufacturing strategy ahead of Labor’s $1 billion advanced manufacturing fund, giving the parties 8.5/10 and 7/10, respectively.

But the opposition has the edge in COSBOA’s book when it comes to merchant fees, scoring 9/10 to the Coalition’s 7.5/10 due to its pledge to champion least-cost routing.

Labor’s “more detailed” approach to disaster preparedness also earned the party a 7/10 rating, compared to the Coalition’s 5/10 platform, which “follows the current policy of paying to fix the problem after the disaster”.

COSBOA preferred the Liberal Party’s pledge not to enact new taxes on small businesses, but called for further support for sole traders. Even so, that 6.5/10-ranked package scored higher in COSBOA’s estimation than Labor’s “vague” approach, which landed the party a 4/10 score.

The Coalition and Labor were both given praise for their approach to mental health services for small business proprietors, earning scores of 9/10 and 8.5/10, respectively.

“Mental health initiatives have bipartisan support with Labor having promised to continue the good work done by the Coalition,” COSBOA said.

“The Coalition gets .5 points more for taking the initiative.”

While COSBOA urged small businesses to make their own estimations of each major policy platform, it awarded the Coalition an average score of 7.16/10 across its 12 criteria, to Labor’s 6.87/10.

The table provides a last-minute insight into the priorities of the small business community, after surveys revealed the pre-poll leanings of Australian SMEs.

Recent data from business financier ScotPac suggested businesses with revenue between $1 million and $5 million prefer Labor to the Coalition, 45% to 42%, with the remainder undecided.

That shifted to a 24%-66% Labor-Liberal split for businesses with revenues of between $5 million and $20 million.

You can find the COSBOA table here.

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