Research centre to drive SME policy debate

An Australian accounting body has joined forces with a Victorian university to help change government policies that impact SMEs in Australia and globally.

The IPA-Deakin SME Research Partnership will be expanded to become the SME Research Centre.

The centre, intended to drive the development of small business globally, will be located in Deakin Business School.

Announced by Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) CEO Andrew Conway, the first duty of the SME Research Centre will be to adapt the Australian Small Business White Paper, released in 2015, for UK SMEs.

“We have had significant success with our Small Business White Paper initiative in Australia; rather than simply talking about small business as the ‘engine room of the economy’, we are providing an evidence base as the foundation of future policy,” said Mr Conway.

The Small Business White Paper, previously reported on by My Business, stated that at the time, Australia was facing a productivity problem.

“If the problem is not resolved, Australians may face a future decline in living standards as real wages adjust to account for this lack of productivity,” the report stated.

Speaking to My Business, Wayne Debernardi, IPA general manager of media and communications, said that the Small Business White Paper has been successful in changing the way SMEs are treated by the Australian government.

“The Labor government last year was keen to look at the loan guarantee scheme aspect and there have been a number of other acknowledgements,” said Mr Debernardi.

In turn, the research has provided an opportunity for the SME Research Centre to help make a difference for growing businesses in Australia, as well internationally.

“The research centre will generate the insights and base for our future policy positioning across a raft of subject matter and will help us with our advocacy work and our submissions to government and policy-setters. Having a strong research base will continue to enable us to drive a credible voice for small business,” Mr Debernardi said.

“What we have advocated for here in Australia on behalf of small business can be replicated in many ways. For example, the access to affordable and responsible finance for small business is not an isolated issue just here in Australia.

“The research work we will do in the UK for a UK white paper will inform us of more of the local issues and themes, particularly considering the regulatory environment is different in the UK but many of the global issues face both economies.”

According to Mr Conway, a key part of the research between Australia and the UK will be focusing on the impact of Brexit on the small business community.

“This will be important in light of the impact of Brexit on the economy and business in general and particularly in considering trade and investment while the free trade agreement negotiations between the UK, Australia and the EU are ongoing,” he said.

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