IR and red tape key election priorities for SMEs, Ai Group survey says: Midday Roundup

SMEs would most like to see political parties focus on industrial relations reform and reducing red tape in the upcoming election campaign, according to a survey of 330 small business owners by the Australian Industry Group.

Almost one-in-four of those surveyed put industrial relations as the thing they would most like to see addressed by the parties, while 23% nominated reducing red tape as their single biggest election priority.

“It’s not at all surprising that IR reform is the key business policy concern for the next government,” Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said in a statement.

“As we have been advocating since the Fair Work Act’s introduction and in the subsequent reviews of the act, changes are needed in a number of areas to provide greater flexibility to employers and to rebalance the current excessive weight given to union interests.

“Reducing red tape and regulatory duplication was the second highest policy priority overall and the greatest concern for small business. This in large part reflects the onerous time commitment required of owner-managers in complying with regulatory obligations.”

Reducing red tape and regulatory duplication is also a high priority for businesses in the construction sector, with over 40% reporting this as their highest priority. When it came to industrial relations, small businesses in industries with high union membership were more likely to nominate this as a priority – 31.3% of manufacturing business owners said industrial relations was their key electoral concern.

ASX300 more pessimistic

Business confidence is going backwards among Australia’s 300 largest companies, who were markedly more negative about business conditions in NAB’s quarterly survey.

Confidence was dragged lower by weakening trends in mining, finance, property services and construction.

NAB expects the ASX300 to be more positive next quarter, as a recovery in the broader economy boosts bottom lines.

Shares up as Japanese policies given vote of confidence

The All Ordinaries and ASX200 both rose 0.5% as markets opened this morning, buoyed in early trade by elections in Japan over the weekend, which saw the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner secure majorities in both the lower and upper houses of the Japanese Diet (parliament).

This has been read as a public vote of confidence in the economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is pursuing inflationary policies aimed at bringing the world’s third-largest economy out of its decade-long slump.

The market was led by the gold miners, who are posting strong price rises after the price of gold climbed above $US1300. In the ASX200, consumer discretionary stocks rose 1.16%.

Market watchers expect shares to finish slightly higher today, but say the market is unlikely to move past current levels without new positive economic news.

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