Federal election 2016: Small business big on ‘best outcomes for all’

The Australian July 15 2016

The small business community has urged crossbench MPs to ­constructively negotiate on policy, warning that an obstructionist parliament would result in a ­“really difficult time” for the ­nation’s productivity.

Small Business Ombudsman Kate Carnell has contacted independent MPs ahead of parliament returning next month in a bid to highlight the merits of policies such as the company tax cut for enterprises with turnovers of less than $10 million a year.

Ms Carnell told The Australian that while she was “really positive” about the prospect of an increased crossbench in the Senate, the country would not be well served if too many groups “who believe their role is to make government not work” dominated parliament.

“The worse outcome is not being able to get things through at all, and I suppose the real focus here has got to be the crossbench, Greens, others, the Labor Party focus­ing on ensuring that we get the best outcomes for Australia and not to just play politics — in other words, make sure the ­government loses everything regardless of the merit of the policy.

“That means everybody’s got to be willing to give and take a bit. To say ‘We won’t deal unless it’s 100 per cent our position’, obviously we can’t get the sort of outcome … Australians expect from our elected parliament,” she said.

Ms Carnell conceded it would be up to the Turnbull government and to some extent Labor to “set the mood” of the 45th parliament.

She wrote to crossbenchers yesterday offering to work ­“constructively” with them to see pro-small business measures legislated, has met independent senators Nick Xenophon and Jacqui Lambie in recent days and hopes to meet Pauline Hanson in Brisbane next week.

Priorities for the sector ­include the small business tax cuts, passing the competition effects test, helping owner-drivers affected by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal dispute and the government’s youth jobs program PaTH.

The government’s 1 per cent tax cut for small businesses with an annual turnover of up to $10 million looks set to pass parliament, but the rest of the tax breaks for bigger businesses — which make up the bulk of the government’s 10-year enterprise tax plan — will struggle.

Ms Carnell stressed that the parliament should not “throw the baby out with the bathwater”.

“Maybe there’s a position that says let’s support the $10m package with a view that future tax cuts be based upon the budget position at the time,” she said.

“It’s really important for the government to focus on what they can get through … Industrial relations reform, for example, will be a lot more difficult.”

Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong agreed that in the “wheeling and dealing” of politics, the balance-of-power-sharing crossbench MPs could not afford to trade away “good things” just because they had a “bee in their bonnet” about another policy.

“If someone wants to bring back guns, don’t trade off small business just because you want a gun somewhere,” he said. “Let’s focus on the big picture stuff — getting the economy moving, getting the jobs going, having the economy flexible enough to deal with the changes.”

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson pointed out that the crossbench “only comes into play” when Labor “doesn’t come into the field”, saying he hoped the opposition would also work with the government.