Small business says Albanese government must prioritise fixing skills shortages and supply chain problems

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Australian Retailers Association (ARA) chief executive Paul Zahra. AAP/Dave Hunt.

Members of the small business community say they stand ready to work with the incoming Labor government to find solutions to Australia’s skills crisis and ongoing supply chain disruptions.

As the finer details of a dramatic election result are confirmed, small business groups on Sunday congratulated Australia’s next prime minister Anthony Albanese and his team, and said messages sent by the electorate about the need for greater action on climate change and gender equality are being heard by those in the business community too.

Andrew McKellar, chief executive of Australian Chamber of Commerce of Industry (ACCI) said the Albanese government’s first priority “must be ending the most acute labour and skill shortages in 48 years”.

“Small businesses cannot afford for the next federal government to drag its heels on growing Australia’s workforce,” he said on Sunday in a statement that also said ACCI will seek to be an “active participant” in the employment summit proposed by Labor during the election campaign.

The new government must also develop a “practical plan to ease the rising costs and supply chain bottlenecks holding back business”, McKellar said, as “streamlining regulatory settings and encouraging business investment will drive our international competitiveness, empowering business to grow”.

“This is a critical time for our country, for business and for generations of Australians,” he continued. “Having overcome the pandemic and ensuing devastation to businesses right across industry, now is time to seize on our potential to unleash a new era of growth, opportunity and innovation.”

The Labor Party made a series of commitments to the small business community early on in the election campaign, including on late payments and least cost routing, and later on unfair contracts. The focus on all three areas was welcomed by Chris Dahl, director of sales and growth at Pin Payments, with Dahl in particular highlighting the action on unfair contracts as “a huge step to combating business inequality and injustice”.

However, Dahl told SmartCompany on Sunday digitisation remains a significant challenge for the small business sector and the Albanese government must produce “a roadmap … which outlines exactly how they will use funds to get every Australian small and medium business online, so these businesses are not left behind.

“Digital is the future of all businesses, so investment in this should be a key issue for Labor, in order to assist with widespread economic recovery and prosperity.”

“An incredible opportunity for establishing a new normal”

For the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), the strong electoral support for the Greens party and independents in key seats formally held by the Coalition highlights the need for greater action on both gender equality and climate change — which chief executive Paul Zahra says are both “strongly on the retail agenda”.

At the same time, Zahra says the peak retail body will seek to work with the new government on its five strategic priorities of labour and skills shortages, supply chain resilience, small business recovery, inclusive and equitable workplaces and sustainable businesses.

“This election has occurred in the tightest labour market in more than 50 years and with a backdrop of surging inflation, so the new government inherits an economy that is not without its challenges,” he said.

“Business costs are increasing, while staff shortages and supply chain delays are continuing to bite. Disruption remains an ongoing concern for companies large and small with conflict abroad creating a ripple of cost pressures for retailers and their customers.

On climate specific policies, Zahra says Australian retailers are already working to improve energy use, food and textile waste, supply chain transparency and the circular economy, and the sector needs  “deeper and stronger integration with government plans in all these areas”. 

Andy Miller, co-founder and CEO of low-alcohol brand Heaps Normal, was more forthright in his assessment of the election outcome.

“It’s now crystal clear Australians expect more from our government,” he told SmartCompany on Sunday.

“This election result spells out an incredible opportunity for establishing a new normal on how Australia tackles the issue of climate change.

“The business community has done an incredible job of showing leadership on climate and innovation, not to mention in funding recovery efforts during both the bushfires and floods over the past three years. Now it’s time for the incoming government to show the same willingness to roll up their sleeves and get to work on transforming Australia’s position on climate change.”

heaps normal climate action

Heaps Normal co-founder and chief Andy Miller. Source: supplied.

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