Current Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison will be Australia’s new Prime Minister, marking the end of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. Here is what that could mean for business leaders and SMEs.
Josh Frydenberg was elected deputy Liberal leader, replacing Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
This follows days of turmoil in Canberra, which has seen a number of key ministers resign.
The business community has expressed extreme disappointment at the situation and the resulting hit to confidence. But with the change now revealed, industry leaders have offered their thoughts and hopes about where-to next.
Fix the ‘policy paralysis’
The Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) wants the new-look cabinet to “fix policy paralysis” for tax and workplace reform.
“The new leader will not be able to fix lack of bipartisan support for major big-ticket reforms, so we might be heading towards the same piecemeal approach with death by a thousand cuts, but we remain hopeful,” IPA general manager of technical policy Tony Greco told My Business’ sister publication Accountants Daily.
Ben Kearney, head of policy and government relations at the Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association, said it was sad that politicians are distracting themselves from their responsibilities in ensuring a strong and stable economy.
“Small businesses in Australia are not served well at all by the current leadership crises or political instability generally,” he said.
“Australians are clearly growing weary of leadership merry-go-rounds, and future governments need to have an unwavering focus on the important challenges our small businesses, their employees and customers face, and not short-term news cycles or quick fixes.
“They need to support their leaders for the full-term and together make the difficult long-term decisions Australians expect of them to plan for our country’s successful future.”
What (if any) good can come of the political turmoil?
There are some potential silver linings to the clouds that have enveloped Canberra, with Peter Strong – head of the Council of Small Businesses of Australia (COSBOA) – suggesting the greatest of these could be small business being elevated back into the cabinet for proper attention and focus.
“At the moment, from what I can see, we’re going to get a small business minister back in cabinet, so that’s a good outcome,” he said.
Another potential plus, according to Mr Strong, is that Mr Morrison in particular has agitated for further tax relief for small and medium-sized businesses, in lieu of the failed tax cuts proposal for corporate Australia. He hoped the new leader would now pick up the baton and drive this forward more strongly.
Voters wanted Bishop for PM
Meanwhile, voters were quite clear about their preferred choice for prime minister.
A snap SMS poll of 2,000 voters by Roy Morgan last night found that Julie Bishop was clearly the Australian public’s preferred option for prime minister, flying ahead of Opposition leader Bill Shorten 64 per cent to 36 per cent.
This lead was universal across all age groups and both men and women, while Tasmania was the only state to prefer Mr Shorten over Ms Bishop, albeit at 51 per cent to 49 per cent.
Mr Turnbull was the next preferred option at 54 per cent to Mr Shorten’s 46 per cent.
However, the other two contesters for the Liberal leadership, Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton, trailed the Labor leader.
Mr Shorten was just ahead of Mr Morrison as preferred prime minister at 50.5 per cent to 49.5 per cent, while Mr Dutton – the chief agitator for change – trailed badly at 38 per cent compared to Mr Shorten’s 62 per cent.
Business groups are concerned for the state of business confidence and also tax law in the wake of this leadership crisis. This is compounded by a Senate that is ineffective at passing tax reform, including the government’s signature policy on corporate tax cuts.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.