SMALL business operators will get their chance to ask the tough questions of local candidates at a Q&A session to be held next week.
New England North West Business Chamber will host the event to give owners the chance to meet with candidates and put the needs of small business at the forefront of their minds.
The meeting is part of a statewide initiative launched in April by the NSW Business Chamber aimed at putting pressure on politicians in the lead-up to the election.
Regional president Tim Coates will moderate at the local Meet the Candidates 2013 Federal Election forum and confirmed the majority of candidates, including Nationals candidate for New England Barnaby Joyce and independent Jamie McIntyre, have confirmed their attendance.
On Tuesday the “Small Business – Too Hard to Ignore” campaign made its presence known as it rolled into town – literally – with the largest mobile billboard in the southern hemisphere in tow.
The massive billboard toured Armidale and Moree on Monday and Tamworth and Narrabri on Tuesday bringing awareness to the plight of small business.
Chamber general manager Greg Pattison said the SkyBoard was “symbolic of what the campaign’s about”.
“The origins of the campaign come from a recognition and belief that small business hasn’t been respected and heard by government and by the politicians,” Mr Pattison said.
“This whole campaign is about, as the board says, trying to get a message out across to politicians that, ‘hey guys, small businesses are too big to ignore’.
“If we want healthy communities ... and as a consequence of that a thriving and healthy society, then you’ve got to think about what you should do and what you could do for small businesses to prosper.
“That’s really the thrust of it.”
The chamber is asking the government to come to the table to address four key themes: cut down red tape, simplify the taxation system, making it easier to employ people, and build better infrastructure.
“We would like to see the candidates express their views on all of these things, take a position, and then after the election, whoever is in government, and this isn’t about picking sides ... then we come back and we are going to hold them to account to what they say they will do,” Mr Pattison said.
He didn’t expect “a silver bullet”, rather there needs to be a range of cumulative initiatives, he said.
“There are two million small businesses in the country, they employ seven million people – that’s 60 per cent of the workforce.
“If we can get an environment where something less than half of all those small businesses could employ one person extra ... that takes pressure off the welfare system, you’ve got money to do other things and away you go from there.”
The campaign is certainly turning heads with more than 77,000 people registering their online support, up from 65,000 a week ago when SkyBoard was first launched in Tweed Heads.
Regional manager Kellon Beard acknowledged the importance of the combined chamber effort.
“It’s a really good movement for people to come together to unite to get their voice heard,” Mr Beard said.
“On their own, no one is going to listen to them.”
The Meet the Candidates forum is open to the general public and will take place at noon on Monday at Tamworth Golf Club auditorium on Mahony Ave.
Non-chamber members will be charged $10 to cover finger food.
The SkyBoard is expected to swing down through the Upper Hunter and end the week on the Central Coast.
Then it’s off to Sydney, Canberra and Wollongong before finishing up at Nowra on the eve of the election.