SMEs are key to our nation’s economic prosperity and the jobs of our future. Everybody seems to be talking about it, but for those of us involved in small business - it isn’t a passing trend.
For this increased public profile to mean anything, it needs to translate to more people supporting their local corner store, boutique and cafe. It also requires any policy or reform discussion of national significance to consider and involve SMEs.
The Abbott coalition government made it clear from the outset this is what we would always do and made small business a cabinet portfolio at the last election. This enables me to ensure the opportunities and implications for small business are factored in to all policies discussed around the cabinet table.
We are committed to getting the settings right to give small business the best possible chance to thrive. That is why we developed the historic $5.5 billion growing jobs and small business package in this year’s budget.
This is in addition to our implementation of a range of other policies including changes to employee share schemes, the proposed unfair contract term protections and an ongoing commitment to removing the burden of red tape.
As I write this we are almost ready to tick off every single election commitment for small business as completed.
What we need is for useful discourse between business, industry, media and the community to also be about what we can do to secure the gain and opportunities offered in an increasingly global, contested and disrupted market place; and how we can best enable entrepreneurs to create the new businesses and modes of economic engagement that will deliver growth, prosperity and livelihoods for the future.
I use the term ‘livelihoods’ as it is not just about the employment others may be in a position to offer for our job seekers because risk-takers and entrepreneurs see a genuine prospect of reward arising from their private endeavours.
The conversation needs to include what economic contribution and opportunities an increasing number of self-starting people like many My Business readers will create for themselves and through their collaboration with like-minded entrepreneurs.
This can’t just be a discussion about how we defend and extend the established interests, how to carve up the current pie or what form of mutual self-interest is politically palatable to ‘in crowd’ and usual suspects.
While a generation ago having business, unions and a few in the ‘in crowd’ agree on how best to ‘organise’ the economy might have flown.
But three decades later, consumers are calling the shots and new business models and ways of delighting customers are the keys to success.
For the economy of today and tomorrow, it is less about how governments might better align policy with established domestic interests and more about what we can do ‘energise enterprise’.
Put simply, for our country to thrive and prosper, entrepreneurs should always be at the table.
Bruce Billson is the federal minister for small business and the federal member of Dunkley.
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