The one-day event was primarily focused on reviewing and discussing a comprehensive whitepaper that has been been recently developed by the IPA in collaboration with Deakin University. The whitepaper looks at a range of key issues facing small businesses in Australia, and aims to provide substantive policy input to the Federal Government. The document is due to be submitted to the Federal Government in December.
Casting my eye around the room, I saw a who’s-who of influential people in attendance, so I knew this was going to be a good, productive session. There were representatives from government, business, regulators and industry bodies, including Australian Small Business Commissioner (Mark Brennan), ACCC Deputy Chairman (Dr Michael Shaper), CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Kate Carnell AO), as well as senior executives from NAB, REIA, Telstra, Family Business Australia and more.
Central themes of the day
Six key topics were covered over the course of the day, and each one was fleshed out into a well-considered list of new initiatives and recommended policy changes that can positively impact and invigorate the small business sector.
- A simplified and targeted small business tax system which supports small business growth
- Australia’s small business are appropriately regulated – providing a safety net without stifling entrepreneurship
- Competition policy which supports and promotes small business by creating a level playing field
- Adequate and affordable access to responsible finance for small business
- Promoting productivity through innovation and use of technology (such as Standard Business Reporting)
- Links to our regional trading partners being facilitated to open export markets for small business
The Honorable Bruce Billson MP, Federal Minister for Small Business joined us as the beginning of the day. His passion for this whitepaper was clear. And so it should be, with his department declaring an ambitious agenda to cut red tape in small business to the tune of $1B per annum during the Liberal Party’s current term in government.
Minister Billson made some impressive announcements about reducing SME reporting burdens from 260 down to 26, and the government’s recently-announced ‘Digital by Default’ initiative, which is all about small business embracing online and cloud technologies to create more seamless exchange of data with government bodies. It was also great to hear Minister Billson give a shout out to Xero, commending us for our ground breaking efforts in embracing SBR in our recent tax platform.
Later in the evening, while winding down at a social gathering, the Minister spoke about the importance of accountants acting as ‘trusted advisors’ to small businesses, and the critical role they can and should play in providing sound financial advice to small business. It was awesome to see someone at this level well and truly plugged into developments in our industry – and passionate about making policy changes, too.
Overall, the think-tank was a really productive and insightful day. One theme that really stood out to me, and many others in the room, was the critical role technology can play in achieving productivity improvements in the SME sector.
On that note, my feedback – and this was shared by Telstra, NAB and just about every other business representative in the room – was that greater emphasis on technology and cloud-computing was needed in the whitepaper to support the various initiatives that we spoke about.
With the IPA whitepaper now set for broader consultation within the SME sector, I fully expect that cloud computing and technology will be given greater emphasis. My hope is that this inspires more discussion and debate at higher levels of government that brings about real policy change for SMEs in this country.