Opinion || 2018: A year to support, not punish business

Joe Townsend, Regional Manager - New England North West, NSW Business Chamber. Photo: Supplied.
Joe Townsend, Regional Manager - New England North West, NSW Business Chamber. Photo: Supplied.

It was heartening for the nation’s 2 million small business owners, and their 7 million employees, that the Prime Minister has acknowledged, during his economic address in Queensland, the vital contribution they make every single day to the prosperity of this country.

Small and medium business owners have never been interested in (nor likely to ever be offered) a hand-out, but they rightly despair at the growing anti-business sentiment that drives increasingly burdensome regulation which is seemingly designed to make it harder and harder for them to succeed and to create jobs for their fellow Australians.

Almost 97 percent of businesses in Australia are SMEs, providing over 7 million jobs and, most importantly, creating around 80 per cent of all new jobs in the economy. Sadly, in recent years, the importance of small business to Australia has been largely forgotten. There is no longer a Small Business Minister in Federal Cabinet, endless regulation is making it incrementally and, at times, exponentially harder for business to compete, and there is a flood of short sighted “thought bubble” policies that threaten the survival of countless small businesses. 

In talking to small business owners, the one ‘thing’ they want from Government is greater certainty. That’s why it was so disappointing to hear populist policy promises from certain political leaders that are obviously designed to collect a few cheap votes but that also give encouragement to the work of fringe activists who seek to demonise business in the mind of the general public. 

Let’s be very clear, without a successful Australian business sector we will cease to be a prosperous and successful nation, and all of our citizens will suffer. All levels of government need to do more to allow Australian businesses to do what they do best – innovate, grow and employ. Regrettably, attempts to do these three important things are being blocked by self-serving politicians, misguided activist groups and ageing left-wing warriors who pine for the “good old days” where unions and employers did cozy deals behind protective trade barriers while the nation went backwards.

As 2018 gets into full swing, we need our nation’s leaders to think about how we support business to tackle some of the pressing social and economic challenges Australia faces, and to wake up to the fact that these challenges cannot be addressed without a vibrant, profitable and confident Australian business sector.

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