Small business is taken for granted by the right, ignored by the left. It’s time SMEs got properly organised to make themselves heard.
Election time draws nigh, and it’s time to wheel out the small business policy debates.
Overall, the level of public debate in Australia on business development and change is lacklustre.
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Even though there is plenty of discussion about the impact of various Coalition and ALP policies on the business sector as a whole, very little of it is specifically focused on SMEs and entrepreneurs. There are several business and industry associations caught up in the various arguments (the Business Council of Australia and ACCI spring readily to mind), but their concerns are just as much about big firms as anyone else. Few of them are dedicated to raising the electoral and political profile of small businesses.
Part of the problem is that small firms themselves don’t organise to have their voice heard. Few of them belong to industry bodies, and as a collective entity their public profile is lower than it should be. The turnover rate of new firms is high, and other more pressing survival needs mean that there is rarely enough energy or time to devote to big picture policy issues.
Few small business operators get involved in party politics, which is a shame. It means that only two parties (the Liberals and Nationals) have any real level of SME exposure, while the other key decision-makers in our Parliament – Labor and the Greens – have very few. This makes it easy for the conservative side of politics to take the SME sector for granted, while encouraging left-of-centre parties to ignore small business because it’s perceived as a natural conservative constituency. Imagine how quickly the debate would turn if the left had three or four high-profile entrepreneurs in the federal shadow ministry.
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