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Political policy vacuum concerns small business sector

EVEN though both major political parties consider small business to be one of the target areas in the November 10 election, their efforts to reach them appear to have failed.

Most commentators feel there is little on offer for small business from either of the major parties.

The small business sector was once considered the Liberal Party’s heartland, but many small retailers say they no longer feel the party speaks for them.

And many small business owners have indicated their concerns with Labor’s proposed changes to industrial relations laws.

Labor has promised to undertake considerable changes in the industrial relations sphere, including dismantling the Australian Workplace Agreements introduced by the Liberal-National Coalition.

WA Retailers Association chief executive officer Martin Dempsey said there was very little on offer from either party.

“(Liberal leader John) Howard is offering more of the same and that’s not going to do us much good,” Mr Dempsey said.

“(Labor leader Kim) Beazley has won some hearts because he is offering small business an ear and a chance for some dialogue. That’s something to start with.

“But I’d rather go for the Democrats,” Mr Dempsey said.

Combined Small Business Association of WA president Oliver Moon said small business was becoming cynical about political promises, which were becoming increasingly “empty”.

“They keep saying we’re the engine room of the economy, but they do nothing for us,” he said.

“Howard is talking about eliminating red tape, but politicians have been talking about that since 1990 and the amount of red tape we encounter keeps increasing.

“The lesser of two evils for small business would be the Liberal and National Coalition because of the industrial relations changes they pushed through. That’s a major issue for small business.”

Mr Moon said while small business was considered a large, important voting bloc, it was a disparate one that could never wield much influence with the government of the day.

Small Business and Enterprise Association executive director Philip Achurch said the election would be a non-event for small business.

“There’s very little on offer from any party that would be of any assistance to small business,” he said.

Mr Achurch believes a change in government would cause concerns from an industrial relations perspective.

“One thing that needs to be addressed is the issue of unconscionable conduct, where a big enterprise unfairly uses its size to pressure a small business. The Trade Practices Act needs to be beefed up with some form of anti-trust laws,” he said.

Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia tax spokesman Roger Sullivan said small businesses wanted a tax reform holiday.

“Most businesses have not had a chance to absorb the changes,” he said.

Mr Sullivan also wants to see the superannuation surcharge removed and “futile” laws taken off the books, such as those that require an ultimate beneficiary statement whenever one trust distributes to another trust.

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