Peter Strong: Questions remain, but I’m optimistic the Albanese government can help small business

inflation wages election economy worker shortage small business workplace relations

Source: SmartCompany.

Well done Anthony Albanese and the Australian Labor Party. Congratulations to the Greens, who performed well, and particularly to the many women who will join the crossbench as newly crowned independents. Commiserations to the Coalition. Democracy in action is a great thing but there are always winners and losers.

It appears the electorate has gone with integrity, climate action, fairness and centrist policies. The Coalition has been told that they must better engage with women, both electorally and politically. The right wing of the Coalition has been thumped — and rightly so — yet ironically, it was the true conservatives who lost their seats as heartland voters abandoned the Liberal Party. 

This election demonstrated the damage done to the Liberal Party by a failure to temper the extreme views of that political right. It also sends a warning signal to the new Labor government of the damage that could be done at the next election if the policies between now and then are dominated by the extremes of the political left, rather than advancing the interests of the vast majority of us who are in the middle. 

The Prime Minister-elect gave a very good victory speech on Saturday night, which included a telling statement:

“No one left behind because we should always look after the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. But also no one held back, because we should always support aspiration and opportunity. That is what my government will do.”

Excellent. Among other things he focused on equality for women, a federal ICAC, climate action and the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which is also excellent. He mentioned his intention to work with the business and unions to “drive productivity, lift wages and profits”

He didn’t mention small business as such, which (no surprise) I found disappointing. He did mention the ‘mighty unions’ which is the sort of thing a Labor leader would do — but union membership has dropped and small businesses are important to the economy and community. I would have preferred to hear about the ‘mighty self-employed’. 

The economy was mentioned in the context of wages. Let’s hope his treasury and finance teams have their heads around the economy and do not get bogged down on single issues without understanding the impact across markets and the community.

The economy will, in my opinion, be a better place with a federal ICAC, with the Uluru Statement and through genuine action on climate. A healthy fairer and safer society will, however, require a proper focus on economic issues — all of it, not just wages. The economy cannot be separated from social and environmental issues. Indeed, it is only when our national economy is strong that we can afford to focus on these issues.

The self-employed drive much of our modern economy and therefore we must look after them — a growing and significant number of whom are women — if we are to look after the health of the economy.

The promise on climate action will be well-received by the majority of small business people, but they remain anxious about how well the change process is managed. The agenda cannot be led by the climate radicals. It must be informed by policies that successfully avoid the potential downside risks for people living in communities currently dependent on the jobs generated by the traditional fossil fuel industry. 

We also need to hear more about the plans for dealing with disasters such as floods, fires and pestilence — of which we have had plenty, with seemingly more to come. It is one thing to stand back and criticise a government for being too slow to respond but the new Albanese government must now show us that they can do better. That means putting plans in place to deal with future disasters now.

I have mentioned previously the questions about competition policy and the tradition that the Retail Union (SDA) normally writes that policy for Labor. The new Albanese government would do well to continue the direction set by former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims — not listen to the vested interests inside the SDA.

The promised scrapping of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) means that the new government will have to show how small business people in the construction industry will be protected from bullying behaviour from the construction part of the CFMEU, which is the primary reasons why the ABCC was established in the first place. There is also the bullying behaviour of a few big construction companies that needs to be confronted.

I look forward with optimism to a Labor government. The relationship between Labor and small business is pretty good. And in recent times, the relationship between small business and the ACTU has become constructive too. Care must be taken to ensure that the good work done by Labor in opposition is not undone by reverting back to the anti-business ideology of big unions in a new Labor government.

If that was to occur, then, as the Liberals faced their ‘teal’ nemesis in this election, so Labor might face its ‘neutral grey’ nemesis at the next. Neutral grey is the colour you get when you mix teal with red.


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David Greens
David Greens
1 month ago

So he didn’t mention small business, has really no small business specific policies and all the policies called out in this article have very little direct relationship to small business. Yet, you are optimistic with absolutely zero facts to back it up. What has happened to journalism in this country?

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