Opinion Editorial | A big deal for job makers and risk takers

15 Apr 2019 |

One of the most important election campaigns in a generation has begun.

The policies of whoever wins will have a profound impact on businesses.

That matters, because all of us benefit from the jobs that businesses provide, and the wages, dividends and taxes that businesses pay.

And you don’t need a microscope to see how important small business is. Ninety-eight percent of Australian businesses are small businesses. Five million Australian workers are employed by small businesses.

Small business employs a third of young working Australians and 40% of apprentices.

So it’s no surprise that the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s campaign to coincide with the federal election is called “Small Business is a Big Deal”.

When chambers of commerce and industry associations across the country speak, we speak on behalf of more than 300,000 businesses.

We speak for wealth creators, risk takers and job makers. We share a vision to make Australia the best place in the world to do business, so that Australians have the jobs, living standards and opportunities to which they aspire.

These are the three things our members have told us their businesses, and the millions of workers they employ, need from the next federal government.

Workplace Relations

We are calling on the next federal government to help employers and employees to work together.

Small business needs more support to hire people and work together with them.

We want no more scare campaigns and threats.

We want to work in the spirit of collaboration – not conflict.

The reality is that unions only represent 9% of the private sector workforce.

They must not be given the power to deny the other 91% of employees they don’t represent the right to work.

The next Australian Government must recognise that despite the rhetoric coming from some about low wages, Australia, in fact, has the second highest minimum wage in the world, only marginally second to Luxemburg.

Further, more than 98% of employees are paid more than that.

And despite what some may say, casual employment is not increasing.

The next Federal Government must ensure workplace laws work for small businesses and their employees, with straight-forward rules that make it easier to create jobs and run their businesses well.

Energy

Our next federal government must deliver affordable and reliable electricity – and with lower emissions.

Small businesses are paying too much for power.

There has been no policy certainty in the energy sector for decades.

This has distorted and discouraged investment.

The National Energy Guarantee – more commonly referred to as the NEG – plus recommendations from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will encourage more competition, address reliability, pricing and emissions reduction.

The next federal government must encourage more investment and more competition so the price of power comes down, and emissions are reduced.

Skills

The next federal government must put an end to the collapse in skills.

Small businesses needs skilled workers. There are not enough people being educated and trained for the jobs on offer.

Government investment has fallen so far that the number of apprentices has fallen from 516,000 to 265,000 in just four years.

The next federal government must help small businesses generate 350,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships over the next three years with adequate funding and less red tape.

Chambers of commerce reach into every community through their members – your newsagent, your butcher, your pharmacist, your dentist, and your local cafe.

And together, we will be reminding politicians that Small Business is a Big Deal.

James Pearson, CEO Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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