Key battleground

I’ve got plenty of admiration for billionaires Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and Gina Rinehart, but I would have to say the sight of them protesting in the streets of Perth yesterday was more than a little ludicrous.

However, the “rally” against the Resources Super Profits Tax did serve to remind us again that the issue is going to have a big bearing on the outcome of the federal election later this year.

And it’s not just billionaires who are up in arms over the tax. Christina Singh, the author of the Sensis Business Index of consumer confidence, told me this morning that concerns about the mining tax are very much on the radar of SMEs, and satisfaction with the Federal Government is slipping sharply as the election approaches.

It’s not just the RSPT, of course. SMEs are also unimpressed with the Government’s level of incentives for business, with the new Fair Work IR regime, with taxation levels in general and in what’s seen as “wasteful” government spending.

Singh says the sharp drop in Government approval – which had been holding pretty steady thanks to the Government’s successful stimulus package – shows that this sector is very much undecided in the lead up to the election.

When you combine this with the research from the National Independent Retailers Association released earlier this year that showed SME owners could decide the fate of 20 marginal seats in this year’s Federal Election, you can see that the SME sector deserves plenty of attention this time around.

We want to see the parties come up with credible ideas for improving access to finance (possibly through a government guarantee for SME loans), for cutting payroll tax, for boosting innovation and for increasing education and training and tackling skill shortages.

SMEs are feeling unloved by the Government right now, and both parties need to act fast if they want to reconnect.

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