Election issues are not so single-sided

The looming federal poll is in danger of being monopolised by issues that are peripheral to Australia’s entrepreneurs.


Michael Schaper

There’s got to be more to the next federal election than just a debate about industrial relations. Many more issues are also important for Australia ‘s entrepreneurs, but they run the danger of being ignored in the leadup to the polls.

Effective entrepreneurship policy requires more than just rolling out a tired set of clichés about reducing red tape (which most governments spectacularly fail to do) and motherhood visions of encouraging small business. 

Here’s some thoughts:

Are we matching up to world’s best practice in enterprise development?

We don’t have a mortgage about the best way to support entrepreneurs, but there’s little public debate or discussion about how we compare with other nations. Many countries, such as New Zealand and Britain, have developed a range of innovative assistance programs that should be considered for adoption and use in Australia.

How effective is the money we’re already spending on business development?

Each year the state and federal governments spend many millions of dollars on enterprise development, but its success is rarely impartially gauged. You can find lots about how much has been spent (inputs), but very little about outcomes. Surely the important barometer of achievement is what we produce, not how much we put in.

Could we reduce some of the overlap between state and federal enterprise support agencies?

There are now several programs running at each level of government – sometimes these work co-operatively, but at other times they are in conflict. Shouldn’t we be trying to rationalise these in some way?



Brendan Lewis from The Churchill Club writes: I recently (3rd September) ran a forum on Innovation Policy in Small Business in Brisbane. The keynote speaker at the conference, Professor Alan Hughes, leads the business research unit at Cambridge University. He noted that in the UK by 2004, nearly $20 billion of support was being provided to SMEs over 3000 schemes. When aggregated, their impact was negligible and consequently the entire systems of supporting small businesses and innovation are now under review. It appeared that doubling up wasn’t the issue (who cares if you’re doubling up if the scheme is effective?) but a lack of effectiveness and coordination/communication that mattered.

BTW, the next forum will be on looking at SBIR schemes in Canberra on the 3rd October. So someone is actually talking about supporting an Entrepreneurial Australia. Too bad its not our political parties.



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