Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has challenged Tony Abbott to come up with more policies for small business, arguing the next federal election will be won by the party with the more positive vision for Australia’s economic future.
Speaking at the National Small Business Summit in Sydney on Thursday evening, Shorten said the rise of China, climate change and an ageing population were massive challenges but also untapped opportunities for small businesses willing to solve big problems.
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In his speech, the Labor leader also tried to hose down concerns his party was the natural enemy of business, highlighting his preference for seeking common ground on contentious issues.
“My first obligation is to the nation, my second is to my political party,” Shorten said.
“I think small business has the chance to be in that zone. My philosophy – be it as a union rep or a parliamentarian – is you can choose to focus on the point of contention and make yourself look strong and tough. Or you can choose to focus on building the basis for consensus.”
But Shorten still took a swipe at the Abbott government over business confidence, saying if Labor was voted back into office he would aim to create certainty for businesses and investors.
“I get that good people can disagree, I really do,” Shorten said.
“If I was to be elected prime minister, I wouldn’t spend the first term and a half unraveling what the other side did automatically. And I wouldn’t spend the second half promising what I’ll do in the second term is what I should have done in the first term.”
As for Labor’s policies in the lead-up to the next election in addition to the already announced 5% small business tax cut, Shorten hinted at establishing a streamlined incorporation process for small businesses.
He also said there needed to be greater access to capital for entrepreneurs and that a carbon tax was off the table.
“I don’t underestimate for a second the challenges facing Australia,” Shorten said.
“There are hard questions and plenty of competition and rancor in politics. But none of you [small business groups] or the people you represent have ever got anywhere by shrugging your shoulders and saying it’s all too hard. That’s not the sort of people you are.”