With the Federal election looming, here we catch up with Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry CEO Peter Anderson to find out why the ACCI has initiated its Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign.
My Business: What motivated Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign?
Peter Anderson: The motivation was to give SMEs a voice. SME business people are individually very spread out and not generally united, yet they form the silent majority. So it was a deliberate attempt to mobilise a key part of the majority so that politicians would not see their voices as marginal or minor. The nature of economic change requires policy to be much closer calibrated to the circumstances of SMEs, so it's important for a growing economy that the next government, Coalition or Labor, start to address some of the key issues affecting sectors where small business has a high presence.
MB: The campaign has pinpointed four key areas (red tape, tax system, employing, infrastructure) that small business has identified as critical to their survival and success. Why those areas in particular?
PA: We conducted a pre-election survey on business sentiment, with 1,800 businesses responding. Also, when we launched the campaign on April 10, we set out to get small business people’s feedback into what the major issues were. We were able to use both the research and the feedback to distill those four issues.
The four that we've identified definitely resonate – in the last week, for example, both Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd have said that they want to be infrastructure Prime Ministers. And that's one of the big four. So we’re definitely having some impact in visibility terms, but also on framing the agenda that the major parties are now having to run a campaign on.
MB: Is the main thrust of the campaign to advocate for a better deal for small business owners?
PA: It is, but it's actually got a secondary purpose – to try and improve the confidence levels inside the small business community by giving them a sense of belief that their voice actually matters. If they believe their voice matters, they are likely to feel a little bit more confident about things.
We are not running this as just as a pre-election campaign. We will be continuing it on the other side of the election because the small business community has got behind the campaign and made it clear that they've had enough of platitudes. They want to see improved decision-making, and we won't give up on this campaign until we see some improved decision-making.
MB: How has the reception been for the campaign so far?
PA: It's been sensational; frankly I'm stunned at just how strong the feedback has been. Over 70,000 voices of support on the campaign via social media in 130 days, so that's literally an army of people who are backing our message. We've got events occurring across the country under the campaign banner. A giant sky board is making its way down the east coast over the course of this month. It's going to major country towns giving local chambers of commerce and local political candidates the opportunity to stand at the front of it and spread their wares.
In different ways, industries and local communities are getting behind it. I was in Perth the other day and small business people over there took the issues straight into their small business ombudsman, who has backed the campaign. It's very grassroots and it does reflect the ingenuity of small business people who are thinking of ways to back it. It's very rewarding to see the response so far – our research told us that there is a high degree of frustration out there and a willingness to be mobilized.
For more information on the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign and why you should get behind it, visit the campaign website now.
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