Overview of activities: Australian policy front
The last 12 months was dominated by the pending federal election, the election itself and the change of government that occurred. ICA’s core activity is to work toward improved regulations that enable a better business environment for self-employed people.
In this context, ICA was disturbed to observe the continuing development of damaging regulations and laws under the Gillard/Rudd Labor governments and we publicly expressed our concerns. These included:
- The policy to not allocate Australian Business Numbers (ABNs) to individuals and to cancel ABNs without reasonable cause or the ability to appeal.
- The mess that surrounded Business Name Registrations following the transfer of responsibilities to the federal government.
- The outlawing of independent contracting in the clothing sector.
- The establishment of a federal transport remuneration tribunal that removed owner-drivers’ control of their own pricing.
- And more.
In particular, the experience of having had six federal small business ministers in five years created the sense that Labor’s small business policy was in chaos. Indeed, there was much to indicate that the drop in number of 130,000 independent contractors over the last two to three years was a direct outcome of Labor policies and actions. However, it was necessary to continue the engagement with Labor as best as could be done—but any engagement produced only talk and no change in the overall negative direction.
By comparison, ICA’s continuing engagement with the Abbott opposition, in particular with long-serving shadow small business minister Bruce Billson, resulted in a package of small business policies that ICA was more than eager to endorse. Now that an Abbott government is in place and Bruce Billson is Small Business Minister, ICA will work hard to ensure that the promised policies are implemented. These include:
- Undoing problems created under Labor with ABNs and Business Name Registration management and so on.
- The creation of fair contract laws for small business. This is a top priority.
- Expanded and real powers for a federal Small Business Commissioner in relation to federal government contracts.
- The reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission to restore protections to small business contractors in the construction sector.
A major event for ICA was the holding of a forum with Bruce Billson and Senator Scott Ryan representing the shadow industrial relations minister Eric Abetz. At the packed-out event, Bruce Billson and Scott Ryan clearly laid out the commitment of the Coalition to small business. Great thanks go to Entity Solutions for hosting and organizing the event.
So far, in the first 8 weeks-or-so of the Abbott government, indications of progress are:
- The small business portfolio has been moved into Treasury. This is significant because it puts small business issues at the centre of government policy creation and decision-making.
- The Small Business Commissioner’s role is undergoing review.
- The Department of Finance is developing a new simple contract for government procurement under $200,000. This will mostly affect small business people who do work for the government.
- Coles and Woolworths have agreed to a new ‘fairness’ code in their dealings with suppliers.
Also significant for ICA was the election of ICA’s founding president and continuing supporter, Bob Day, to the Senate. Bob takes up his position on 1 July 2014 and ICA will work closely with Bob on the achievement of improved laws and regulations for small business people.
In pushing our self-employed policy objectives our activities have included (but were not limited to) the following:
- Tony Abbott as Opposition leader
- Bruce Billson as shadow small business minister and, post-election, as Small Business Minister. Private meetings and meeting with ICA board
- Greens economic advisors
- Queensland Premier and Queensland Attorney-General on workers’ compensation, small business IR issues
- Rudd government Small Business Minister Brendan O’Connor with ICA board.
- Federal Small Business Commissioner and all state Small Business Commissioners.
Lobbying and submissions on
- South Australian OHS laws
- Construction code of conduct in Victoria
- Fair contract laws.
- Small Business Commissioner legislation NSW
- Liberal Party policy forums
- Workers’ Compensation laws Victoria, NSW, Queensland
- Productivity Commission review into red tape
- The Age
- Sydney Morning Herald
- The Australian
- ABC Radio national and regional
- Business Spectator
- Australian Financial Review
- Brisbane Courier Mail
ICA on a global scale developing policy
ICA is active on the international level, pushing for reform globally for small business people. ICA is a member of SEAANZ, the Australasian affiliate of the peak global small business organization ICSB headquartered in Washington DC. ICA has two members on the SEAANZ board. We were active at the SEAANZ national conference in July in Sydney and presented a $500 prize for the most practical paper delivered at the conference.
This year (in October 2013) ICA launched its Global Entrepreneurs Enabler Index, a measurement tool of government regulations affecting self-employed people. The GEEIndex:
- Has been four years in the conceptual development.
- Has had input from small business academics from across the globe reviewing the methodology.
- Has been completed and applied with Canadian partners, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
- Was launched in Washington DC at a peak global small business policy conference in October 2013 which involved ISCB, the World Bank and the OECD.
- Has secured US partners to apply the GEEIndex to each of the states in the US.
- Will have another global launch in Macau at a peak small business conference in late November 2013.
ICA administrative issues
- Finalized and launched our new website. Traffic is up.
- Produced a minimum of one news alert per week.
We updated our constitution to ensure consistency with changes made to the Victorian Incorporations Act in 2012.
ICA covered all its expenses during the year with a small surplus.