Peter Strong: Focus might be on other issues, but small business will always vote on what’s best for them

inflation wages election economy worker shortage small business workplace relations

Source: SmartCompany.

Elections are frustrating, are they not?

Over the years I’ve seen annoyance and frustration from business owners and business association leaders about the focus, during elections, on things that do not seem that important. The focus by many politicians is on the ‘got you’ moments or the ‘look at them — aren’t they hopeless’ dialogue. There are also some in the media who are obviously on one side or the other and like to focus on strange and bizarre issues to influence the swinging voters. 

The balanced media, the majority, will continue to focus on the economy, wages, tax reform, climate action, interest rates, the cost of living, the factional warfare found in all parties, or on defence and other big picture issues.

As mentioned in last week’s column, the issue of the lack of workers is being ignored and this week that has continued as we have seen a big focus on transgender issues from a wanna-be politician and those who object to the comments. That issue is very real for some and is full of emotion, so it should be left to experts to deal with and comment on, not with ideologues. We have also seen the focus on the Solomon Islands take a central place in discussion, which is fine, but what about the other important issues?

There is one place where there will certainly be a focus on everyday important issues — the small workplaces around Australia.

Over 90% of workplaces in Australia have fewer than 20 employees. Some 60% of employing small businesses have fewer than five employees. These workplaces often have tight, respectful teams who of course see each other on a daily basis and get to know each other well. It may not happen all the time, but workers will often have a good idea about co-workers’ beliefs and behaviours. 

When in familiar territory, people can be comfortable debating and arguing and discussing issues, or just listening to and watching others; this is where we can get real influence. The influence will only be for those not welded onto political beliefs and ideology, those willing to consider real arguments.  

This is not just the so-called swinging voters, but also those who may have some doubts about their preferred choice. A lot of people change their votes — some often and some not so often, but they do change.

Here is a typical scenario. On a Monday, when people are back at work after a weekend, there will often be discussion about what happened on the weekend; about family, the footy or topical TV shows; about the latest on COVID-19; maybe about films and events of interest or concern.

During an election there will be discussion about whatever happened over the weekend with the politicians wanting to get elected. There will be talk and much mirth or anger about the latest leaders’ debate, or the latest gaffe by a politician, or some gossip about local candidates.

And whether we like it or not, the employer in those small teams will have influence on opinions. Sometimes if that opinion is too one-eyed it may be the opposite effect of what they want, but in the majority of situations, the employees know their job depends upon the health of the business and the employer. If the employer looks worried or sounds concerned, this will have some impact on the workers. The worker may also take these observations back home or share with other friends.

If you are a worker in a small business, or if you are the owner of a small business, will you vote based upon transgender issues and the Solomon Islands, or about your current and future welfare? Or all of those? 

It may be more complicated for some but, normally and reasonably, people will vote for what is best for them, for their kids and for kin.

Many voters will work out what is best from discussions and observations in their workplace. And so, small workplaces are powerful places of influence.

Finally, let’s note that elections are of course essential. They are a centrepiece of democracies — the opportunity for the population to decide who shall govern them and their country for the next few years. There are plenty of other countries where people would kill for the opportunity to have a free election and some, disturbingly, for the chance to stop free elections. 

Thankfully, for all their frustrations and annoyance, we in Australia have good transparent democratic elections combined with freedom of the press and freedom of speech. There may be discussions about those freedoms at times but we do have them and let’s keep it like that. 

So I shouldn’t tell people how to vote but here I go: don’t vote for fascists or idiots.

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