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Small businesses turn their back on Gillard

Thursday, 21 April 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
Less than a quarter of SMEs would vote for the Gillard Government if an election was held in the near future because they have become the “forgotten majority”, according to a new survey.

 

Accounting software firm MYOB recently surveyed 1,000 small business owners, highlighting their deep dissatisfaction with the Gillard Government.

 

According to the survey, 71% of business owners want immediate action on a lower small business tax rate, while 64% want a simplified Business Activity Statement.

 

The survey also reveals that more than half of respondents want assisted business finance, and only 23% would vote for the Gillard Government if an election was held soon.

 

MYOB chief executive Tim Reed says while the Government has lowered the company tax rate from 30% to 29%, this doesn’t apply to more than 70% of Australian businesses that do not operate under a company structure.

 

“Australian SMEs have become the forgotten majority, with no action from the Federal Government on any of the reforms that are important to them,” Reed says.

 

“Never before have we received such a clear message from SMEs on what they want... These are not outrageous demands.”

 

Reed does not believe dissatisfaction with the Government stems from the ongoing debate over a carbon tax, with the MYOB research revealing divided opinions on this topic.

 

The survey shows that while 31% of SMEs say the carbon tax debate is important, 36% deem it unimportant. Even so, Reed said earlier this month that a carbon tax would provide business certainty.

 

“There are probably a lot of people out there who believe it might be the right thing and it’s a necessary thing, but are concerned about the way it is implemented, that it might put on additional red tape,” he says.

 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has hit back at business criticism of the carbon tax, confirming she will not retreat from the plan to introduce the tax on July 1 next year.

 

The announcement comes after the Business Council of Australia warned a carbon tax will hurt industry and send jobs offshore.

 

But the Prime Minister has sent a letter to BCA president Graham Bradley saying the carbon tax will go ahead as planned because “we believe putting a price on carbon is the cheapest and fairest way to cut pollution”.

 

Gillard said the Opposition has backed Labor’s target to reduce emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2010, calling on Bradley to confirm whether the BCA supports this target.

 

The Prime Minister has said it is “absolutely legitimate” that people wanted to know the details of the tax, sticking with her decision to facilitate discussions with business, unions and community groups before announcing the details later in the year.

 

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently released data showing 70% of Australians believe the carbon tax will compromise jobs, questioning union claims that “green” jobs will replace jobs lost in domestic manufacturing.

 

ACCI chief executive Peter Anderson says an unfortunate aspect of the union’s position is the lack of attention to impacts on SMEs.

 

“Although union membership in these sectors is low, they employ more than 50% of the Australian labour force and are as vulnerable to higher energy costs as households and union members,” Anderson says.