Small business a Labor target for next election

A NEW policy gap between the Federal Government and the Labor Party has opened over last month’s Australian Industrial Relations Commission ruling on redundancy payments by small business.

The Government has pledged to introduce legislation so small businesses with less than 15 employees continue to be exempted from redundancy payments.

In contrast, Labor’s small business spokesman Bob McMullan has supported the ruling, which only applies to employees under Federal industrial arrangements.

“We think that small business employees are entitled to get redundancy payments just like the employees of other businesses,” a spokesman for Mr McMullan said.

Mr McMullan takes a similar line on the unfair dismissal laws.

“I recognize that a lot of small businesses would like to see changes to the unfair dismissal laws [but] I can’t see the advantage in creating two classes of employees,” he said.

Mr McMullan’s preferred message for small business is his planned strengthening of section 46 of the Trade Practices Act to protect small business from abuse of market power by their larger competitors.

A wide range of small business groups, including the Independent Grocers’ Association of WA and the national Fair Trading Coalition, which represents more than 300,000 small businesses, have backed this change.

A recent report by the Senate Economics Committee came to the same conclusion.

Mr McMullan said Labor would strengthen the power of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to protect small businesses from misuse of market power, unconscionable conduct and predatory pricing.

Labor is also pushing legislation to simplify the administrative requirements of the Business Activity Statement.

It has proposed that businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million be able to use an ATO determined ratio to calculate their quarterly GST payments, with no annual or quarterly reconciliation.

“Under Labor, the method couldn’t be simpler, with small business only having to complete one calculation and fill in two boxes on the BAS form,” opposition leader Mark Latham said in a statement.

Mr McMullan plans to consider the appointment of a small business advocate “to champion the cause of small business and be the first point of contact for small businesses in their dealings with the Commonwealth government”.

Franchising is another area Mr McMullan plans to review.

“Franchising is growing fast but the Trade Practices Act is quite weak in defending and protecting the rights of franchisees,” he said.

“This is an area to which Mark Latham has asked me to give a lot of attention.”

Mr McMullan also denied claims by his political opponents that Labor plans to introduce a Federal payroll tax.



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