2012 Policy Positions of the Tasmanian Small Business Council
By almost every measure the small business community is one of the greatest contributors to State Government income. Be it by direct taxes and charges on business activity or the taxation revenues generated from the one hundred and ten thousand employees is difficult to find any other sector that generates so much of Tasmania’s wealth.
This contribution is sometimes overlooked as government’s respond to strident claims from single interest groups, it is the income generated from the success of the small business community that provides the funds for government to distribute.
Small business is the “engine room of the Australian economy” and in Tasmania it is potentially the largest contributor to the state’s economic wealth (excluding extractive industries). Small business also makes a substantial contribution to the social fabric of our highly regionalised state by providing jobs in local communities.
Taxes and charges on small business operations in Tasmania are the second highest in the country (IPA Reports). Multiply this by the number of small businesses paying these taxes and charges and the total is greater than that paid by other business sectors including the biggest enterprises in the State. As the largest employer in the state, small business also contributes handsomely to income tax revenue while providing the funds for personal expenditure which in turn generates GST revenue.
Small business is also local business with many enterprises located away from the major cities and thus able to generate jobs and wealth in their surrounding communities. Often a small business is the local big business.
At a time of political change, when new policies are being developed, it is good to note that all political parties have found an interest in the small business community and its collective contribution to the economic health of Tasmania
Governments and the bureaucracy are often jostling for the attention of the small business owner. This can be for a range of reasons including regulatory compliance, government assistance, and consultation or lobbying. Small business people however say:
There are 37,000 small business owners and managers, they comprise 96% of all businesses in Tasmania and employ around 110,000 people. Thus small businesses provide the greater part of the State’s workforce. Their employees and stakeholders are located in every electorate. They are major contributors to the taxation base which funds government and thus wider economic benefits throughout Tasmania.
Adequately supported local business can be among the strongest contributors to social equality in their community. Yet small business is often overlooked, simply because small businesses are small and thus individually have little political presence.
Small Businesses are located across the length and breadth of the state and in every electorate. In many communities small business is the local big business.
For discussion and enquiry about these small business policy proposals please call:
Tasmanian Small Business Council
Robert Mallett, Executive Officer 0408 144 884
Geoff Fader, Chair 0418 120 642
· Policy Proposal 1
That the Government adopt and promote the concept of “Think Local First”
Two significant opportunities exist to build on the local goals and objectives of the small business sector to retain wealth in their local communities. These are, the advancement of the Think Local First” concept now proving to be successful in many regions across the world and the related encouragement and support for those activities that lead to successful import replacement.
There is a perception that it is only the Government which can enhance economic activity via public expenditure however, every Tasmanian can play a part by moving even a small part of their discretionary expenditure to local suppliers. Just as it is appropriate to encourage Tasmanians to holiday at home it is equally relevant to encourage our community to consider the option of purchasing locally made goods and services this keeping wealth both in the state and in their local community.
- · “Leave us alone to focus our time and attention on our business unless government has something to offer that is genuinely beneficial to our business”
- · “If there is a need for government Departments or Agencies to talk to us – then talk to us. Do not just put something on the World Wide Web and expect us to find it, understand it, and action it. Use our established networks and representation”
- · “Facilitate feedback mechanisms so small business owners and their representatives can provide their input without having to incur expenses and/or lost time and productivity”
- · “Minimise and simplify any reporting that we have to do, i.e. one point of contact e.g. a business version of “Service Tasmania” contact and coordinated reporting, say once per quarter on a particular date”
- · “Ensure that the compliance checking authorities, being the people with expert knowledge, also provide authoritative advice in order to help small businesses get it right”
- · “Treat small business equally and fairly alongside our big business cousins”
· Local business purchase
The trend is developing for communities to promote local purchase but it is disparate and lacks coordination. Our proposal is that the government takes a lead in promoting the concept of ‘Think Local First’.
· Government Procurement
Supply contracts issued by all government departments and agencies (including local government) mandate recognition of the economic multiplier which follows from local purchase of goods and services when considering “best value” for the community they serve. (The work of the USA based Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) as espoused by Michael Shuman during his visit to Tasmania in 2009 amply demonstrate both the success of such philosophies and that they do not compromise international free trade agreements)
· Import replacement
Encourage Tasmanian enterprise to seek opportunities to replace imported goods with items of local manufacture and services which provide local employment. The Government should demonstrate their commitment and provide encouragement and support for enterprises wishing to provide goods and services which would otherwise be imported.
TSBC Action: “Work with all interest groups currently promoting ‘Buy Local, ‘Shop Local’, and similar campaigns to consider the TSBC concept of ‘Think Local First’
“Encourage and foster strong Tasmanian small businesses, and local enterprise.”
Policy Proposal 2
The Government commit to a process to gather knowledge from, and communicate with, the small business community
It is proposed that the government fund an annual small business consultation and ensure that the representatives of the small business sector are sufficiently resourced to undertake the necessary research to keep both the Members of the Parliament and the bureaucracy adequately informed of current issues. This will facilitate good policy development and thus enable the small business community to make the maximum contribution to the State’s economic growth and the resultant community wellbeing.
Substantial data is available to demonstrate that the economic multiplier (wealth circulated, generated and retained in local communities) resulting from local purchase is up to four times greater than that resulting from purchase of the same goods and services from non local sources.
As regards to import replacement it is clear that Tasmania’s balance of payments and resulting economic wealth will benefit at around $2 for every one dollar of import replacement that is achieved. Such a policy will also assist local firms to strengthen their competitive opportunities in national and international markets.
This proposal is made in accordance with the terms of the Partnership Agreement between the Tasmanian Small Business Council and the Tasmania Together Progress Board to foster and promote the success of small business enterprise in Tasmania:
TSBC Action: “Forcefully represent to government the views of members of the Tasmanian Small Business Council
Policy proposal 3
The Government commit to encourage the Commonwealth to provide equivalent training incentive payments to small business owners and their business partners enabling them to undertake relevant and flexible business skills training.
It is proposed that the State work with the Commonwealth to make training incentives available for employers and enterprise owners where they enrol and complete Cert IV in Small Business Management on the same basis as these incentives are available to their staff.
Such training to include the provision of increased opportunities to provide skills acquisition for employers and enterprise owners in the most significant non technical business responsibilities including industrial relations and occupational health and safety, human recourse management, book keeping and internet technology along with small business marketing and management.
Knowledge is critical, and current knowledge is vital if government is to make informed decisions. There is no present process by which government can effectively interact with the small business community. Support funding to enhance two-way communications through trade associations to and from their membership is essential. Such a process can ensure the availability of timely advice.
TSBC Action: “Work with training organisations to ensure that courses provided are applicable to small business needs”
TSBC Action: “Undertake to lobby government to ensure the long term education and training needs of small business operators are met”
TSBC Action: “Encourage small business to support staff skills upgrades and continuing professional education where appropriate”
Policy Proposal 4
Exit with dignity - The Tasmanian Government should, through the Department of Economic Development provide funding to inform small business owners who are considering exiting their business or who are in significant financial stress, cost effective, low stress methods of doing so.
Proposed budget- $250,000
Skilled managers know the value of skilled and adequately trained staff however the present Australian Government training policies specifically exclude the same levels of financial support for the “owners and partners” of business enterprises as is available to support skills acquisition for their employees. An example would be that the marriage partner of a business owner who is also the accountant/book keeper is excluded from training support if she/he is a partner in the enterprise. This is inequitable and counterproductive.
Much of this can be avoided through a supported and orderly business exit. The key factor is the need for professional advice.
Policy proposal 5
The Government focus on improving the literacy and numeracy of graduating school students to ensure that they reach levels sufficient to become employable.
1. Research (US Dept of Labour) suggests that in the next 20 years 65% of today’s primary school children will end up at a job that hasn't been invented yet.
2. The majority of businesses which are currently trading are owned and managed by baby boomers. These people will be seeking to exit their business within the next 10-15 years and will be expecting the sale or wind up of their business to provide for their future financial needs. With trading conditions at very low ebb, it is increasingly unlikely that they will in fact sell their enterprise or even exit debt free.
3. Data released during December by the DBM Consultants (engaged by the Business Financial, Services Monitor) tells us that the top concern facing small business in Australia is the current economic environment. This is approaching the previous GFC. The report goes on to say that 36% of Tasmanian businesses have a negative outlook which in some cases is double the outlook from other states.
4. The cost to the community as a result of the involuntary closure of a business has been calculated at between $600,000 and $1.2M. This includes unpaid creditors, unpaid rent, unpaid Tax, superannuation and additional employee entitlements all of which lead to additional burdens on the health and social support systems.
The Government must ensure the provision of the necessary resources to reverse the current situation where four out of every six applicants for apprenticeships are unemployable because they would be a danger to themselves and others in their workplaces (GTA data). Australian Bureau of Statistics research is showing that 51% of 15 to 19 year olds in Australia are functionally illiterate and 57% of the same cohort is functionally innumerate. A lack of basic literacy resulting from the failure of the compulsory education should not lead to unemployment and social disadvantage.
TSBC Action: “Promote and support relevant educational programs to reduce workplace discrimination.”
Policy proposal 6
The Government commit to supporting and enhancing agreed mechanisms to support small business development in Tasmania
There are a range of business/small business support agencies within Tasmania, some of which are undergoing a review. Services such as these are vital to supporting small entrepreneurs in start up, mature businesses to grow and some businesses in crisis to survive.
Small business need to be able to find prospective employees with basic literacy and numeracy skills. These skills must be sufficient to understand basic written instructions eg warning and safety notices and include simple arithmetic sufficient to calculate change from retail transactions.
TSBC Action: “Encourage and foster strong small businesses, which will allow them to be able to make long term decisions and invest money into long term employment”
Policy Proposal 7
That the Government provide Small Business Ministerial Responsibility – to ensure balance and equity:
It is proposed that the government commit to actively confirm its recognition of the major contribution of the small business sector in the Tasmanian economy. This should be acknowledged by appointing a member of Cabinet as Minister responsible for Small Business with specific duties to ensure balance and equity across the range of government and local government activities and where small enterprises are subjected to unfair abuse of market power.
The Minister may be supported by an independent Small Business Commissioner with responsibility to make recommendations across all levels of government activity. The Small Business Commissioner could review the introduction of new legislation and regulations at State and Local government which would be subject to a small business regulatory impact statement. Abuse of market power should also be subject to investigation.
Whilst the state’s business support network is providing critical support and advice to thousands of small business owners and new business intenders each year, It is timely that the review recognise and focus on the need for improved efficiency and best practice in the provision of these services and a focus on the trade areas in greatest need.
Enhancement of these services by extension of a locally managed network of Voluntary Business Mentors will provide a low cost, connected and well informed additional service to many small business owners who often require no more than the opportunity to discuss their issues and potential opportunities with an informed and experienced third party in a confidential setting.
TSBC Action: “Maintain a strong independent small business sector capable of providing strong competition to big business and hence able to employ significant numbers of Tasmanian”.
TSBC Action: “Form a close relationship with relevant government organisations to ensure that decisions are not made that act as a disincentive to small business investment”
Policy Proposal 8
That the Government commit to encourage innovation in the Small Business community
It is important that there be no diminution of the business support services presently available to the small business sector and that they be enhanced by an increased focus on encouraging and supporting innovation. Such actions to include provision of reliable and consistent access to workshops, advice and guidance to small business entrepreneurs and assisting them to both understand and develop innovative products and services. This includes assistance to achieve effective connectivity with commercial opportunities on a national and international basis including utilisation of the unique advantage being offered by the National Broadband Network roll out first in Tasmania.
Many existing laws, policies and government processes place small business enterprises at direct disadvantage to their larger big business cousins. This situation has in the most part developed over time through a lack of understanding of the impacts many small businesses experience, rather than by design. The lack of balance and equity needs to be addressed.
The establishment of a facility to review and address this imbalance, and a mechanism to ensure that future regulation delivers equity will be beneficial to the State’s economy.
TSBC Action: “Encourage small business managers to embrace the opportunities for web based commerce”
Policy Proposal 9
The Government conduct A review of the focus and operational efficiency of all Government Business Enterprises (GBEs), including local government.
Innovation is the key to future success. In a world where others are advancing their products and service provision at ever increasing rates, fostering innovation is vital to ongoing economic success. Simply by standing still we are going backwards. The critical prime mover advantage resulting from first roll out of the National Broadband Network is a unique opportunity for Tasmania
TSBC Action: “The TSBC will continue to work with similar small business and industry representatives to ensure that the activities of GBE’s and Local Government bodies relevant to the TSBC are held accountable”.
Policy Proposal 10
Government purchasing policy should;
Many Government Business Entities (GBEs) have expanded their activity beyond the original vision for which the organisation was created.
This has resulted in increased expenditure and a resultant higher cost to the community they serve.
A review of these entities will lead to a refocussing of their original intent and a clear understanding within the community of the outcomes expected. This will also lead to increased transparency in the organisations activities, lower costs for the community and better value for the client group.
o ensure the recognition of the value of the economic multiplier and employment to local communities, in the purchasing decision,
o provide a realistic definition of ‘Tasmanian’ business in annual reporting of government purchasing activities,
o be constructed so that individual contracts/tenders should be written to enable Tasmanian businesses to have the greatest opportunity to participate.
TSBC Action: “Work with the Treasurer to develop a government procurement policy which provides greatest value to the Tasmanian community”.
Policy Position 11
The Government should establish a Tasmanian Small Business Commissioner.
The benefit of local purchasing has been described in detail in the ‘Think Local First’ policy however purchasing policy does not specifically take into account the local benefits which flow to the community.
Purchasing officers must be adequately trained in contract management to allow appropriate contract structure to encourage local tenderers. Disaggregation of contracts where possible to allow the greatest number of local suppliers and keep activity, wherever possible in the local community.
TSBC action. “Advocate with the leading political parties in Tasmania for the creation of the position of Tasmanian Small Business Commissioner”
Small businesses, franchisees and retail tenants often feel powerless when dealing with unfair practices of franchisors, larger businesses or large scale landlords. Small businesses can find themselves alone when they have a dispute with a larger business. The ACCC does not generally get involved in individual small business disputes and going to a lawyer or court can be very costly and time consuming. While industry associations can assist, at times the larger party refuses to deal with the industry association or the small business involved.
The establishment of a Small Business Commissioner would create a more level playing field and assist small businesses in trying to resolve disputes with larger businesses, State Government bodies and Local Councils. It would allow the small enterprise owners to be able to better stand up for themselves and promote good-faith dealings between all parties so as to minimize disputes that cost small businesses and the State economy lots of money.
In Tasmania it is mum and dad and family businesses which form the basis of the economy, and strong legislation to support a Small Business Commissioner will give them an independent person to help them work through tough times, disputes and compliance issues. This independent presence will help minimise bad behaviour by larger parties when dealing with small businesses.
Strong legislation will create a long overdue balance between small businesses and larger companies with fair dealing and good faith encouraged in all business dealings and with enforceable fines for corporations failing to comply with industry codes aimed at promoting better business conduct.