14/12/2004 - 21:00

EDITORIAL Mark Pownall

14/12/2004 - 21:00


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WA Business News doesn’t consider itself a small business newspaper by any means, but a couple of things have happened this week to make me think it should be.

We work and we vote

WA Business News doesn’t consider itself a small business newspaper by any means, but a couple of things have happened this week to make me think it should be.

In recent days I have had occasion to meet both opposition leaders that mean anything to Western Australia – State Liberal leader Colin Barnett and Federal Labor leader Mark Latham.

Both are sharply focused on the small business sector and, I would hazard a guess, see winning that segment of the community as vital to their chances of winning power.

Just how they do that will take very good strategy and the approach will no doubt be different from each side of politics.

Small business, of course, is difficult to define and, due to its independent nature, hard to isolate.

But there is no doubt that the rise of the micro-business, home-business and self-employed contractors has significantly expanded the number of people in the electorate who think like small businesses.

Just one generation ago, many of these people would have been employees whose state-of-mind would reflect that. Their issues would have been working hours, wages and career opportunities.

Many would have been union members and expected that membership to win them benefits, generally through collective bargaining that included all their colleagues.

Fast forward 20 years and you can see the differences. These people now work for themselves, even if all their work is at one site with one ‘employer’. Largely, they would be seeking the best rates and conditions for themselves, balancing that with the competitive need to keep in business.

These people have, in the main, chosen to work for themselves for the benefits it is supposed to provide. In essence, they now have more in common with employers than they used to, even if they don’t actually employ anyone.

I would suggest that this shift is one reason why union membership has slumped and the shift to policy debate more rooted in economics has occurred.

For these people, paperwork, taxes and bureaucracy are no longer someone else’s problem. It is caused by government. It causes them hardship, it takes them away from their families and they stop people at barbeques to talk about it.

And these people vote.

Many to thank

NOW for a final festive message, and thanks to some people in particular.

This year we have tapped in to some major business issues, having improved our ability to read the underlying concerns of industry rather than just focusing on news of the week every week.

A special mention must go to the representatives of industry associations who have helped us find these topics of discussion, often by coercing their members to attend our roundtable debates and put their voice to those concerns.

Without naming names, thanks all for speaking up.

I’d also like to offer my gratitude to three students – Victoria Manson, Neil Hancock and Jackie O’Dowd – for their research into how we can better please our readers. The suggestions are invaluable, particularly as these ‘students’ have considerable business experience within their group.

We can’t thank them enough; not just for offering us some insight, but doing it in a way that made them feel part of our team.

This trio is from the Curtin Business School, and it is worth noting that business has the opportunity to utilise these student projects at most of the universities around the town.

We get some good research and the students get real applications to address – I hate to say it, but it’s win-win.

My final thank you is to our readers, especially our growing subscriber base.

It’s another classic case of win-win. The more people buy our newspaper, the more resources we can throw at reporting business and politics in this State.

For those who whinge about media diversity in this town, here’s your opportunity to do something about it.

For those who have already seen the light and subscribed, we wish you, your colleagues and your clients the very best season’s greetings.


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