Big vs. small is just silly

Wow. As if things aren’t tough enough. Just as small business gets a glimmer of attention from political parties after decades of being ignored or receiving lip service around election time, the knives come out. This morning, small business owners received an unexpected walloping from flat earth economist Judith Sloan.

In a column in The Australian this morning she takes issue with the Greens for suggesting they might block company tax cuts for big business and wave through cuts for small business.

Since when did small business become a protected species, she asks. Why should small business be afforded special treatment?

But it gets better. She then puts forward a number of reasons why small businesses are not deserving of special treatment.

Big business signs up for corporate social responsibility mandates, she says. 

Apparently big businesses also give generously to various philanthropic and environmental causes.

Oh, and they pay higher wages.

AND they take their duty to diversity in employment seriously.

Of course, the implication from this is that small business owners don’t deserve a tax break because they are socially irresponsible, planet polluting, tight-fisted, bigoted employers.

Whoever thought that the large businesses in Australia were such great corporate citizens?

One wonders why on earth she would go down this path except it does highlight the fact that when the money on the table shrinks, the fights over it grow shrill.

Now Sloan makes good points. Of course we need proper policy for small and medium businesses that helps start-ups grow and fast-growth businesses expand. The ad hoc solutions that are rolled out to assist the sector are not part of any grand plan and SmartCompany has been banging a drum on this for years.

And whether Sloan likes it or not, small businesses do need preferential treatment for many reasons – and not just because they don’t have the admin muscle to cope with mountains of paperwork.

One more thing, the small business owners I know are pretty nice. They offer flexible arrangements if they can’t quite match the salary rates of their big competitors but the skills shortage means to get the talent they want, they have to try. They personally or often through their company do heaps of charity work. They don’t create the pollution of large companies because, well, they are small and many are environmentally aware (although many don’t care)…

I could go on, but I will stop before I too can be accused of mass generalisations that don’t progress the debate.


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