• 24/07/2024

Politicians’ power games undermining small business

Tony Featherstone | SMH | February 21, 2011
Barely a day goes by without intense speculation about Labor leadership and the fate of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. This soap opera makes it feel like the last federal election never ended, even though we know elections are bad for business.
Big business has had more to say on this issue, but I want to know how the unrelenting political uncertainty is affecting Australian small business.
Send a message to politicians and “faceless” power brokers.
Tell them if you think their backroom power plays and policy flip-flops are badly damaging small business – at the worst possible time.
Tell them if you think small business has enough to worry about without politicians spending all day managing their career or next media conference, or plotting, rather than reforming the economy.
Tell them if you think small business is an afterthought for most politicians, even though it is a critical engine of the economy and employer, and desperately needs a break.
Tell them if you are sick of only ever hearing about unions or big business, and being saddled with unrealistic wages, weekend penalty rates, and other costly red tape.
Tell them if you are sick of government regulations and competition policy that favours big business over small, and does not adequately protect small enterprises from large companies misusing their market power and/or engaging in unconscionable conduct.
Most of all, tell our politicians what Australian small business wants and needs – and demands.
The obvious casualty from the political landscape is consumer and business confidence. Australia has low unemployment (for now), low debt by international standards, a solid economy (for now), an incredible mining investment boom, and is ideally positioned to benefit from the growth of China and other Asian emerging markets.
Yet all we ever hear and read is doom and gloom. Blame the media if you like, but political leadership and policy uncertainty has to be a huge factor in the discrepancy between public sentiment and economic fundamentals. It’s no wonder consumers are spending less. Blame the politicians – on both sides of politics – if Australia talks itself into recession.
How can small businesses feel confident when politicians fuel the gloom with their policy incompetence, half-truths, opportunism and spinelessness?
More to the point, has this never-ending political point-scoring and uncertainty made your firm:
  • Less likely to hire people in the next 12 to 18 months.
  • Less likely to invest in equipment.
  • Less likely to buy other assets or businesses.
  • Less confident to take risks.
  • Less confident about Australia’s prospects?
What would a change of Labor leadership or a new federal government do for Australian small business confidence? Would it make your firm more likely to hire or invest again? Or would it just create a new set of problems and a different soap opera that soon becomes dull?
Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe our politicians are a convenient scapegoat for tough small business trading conditions. But I sense small business people have had a gutful of all the talk about politicians and personalities rather than productive policy and performance.
As usual, small business pays the biggest price for Canberra’s indulgence.

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