2014 has been another successful year for Independent Contractors Australia, with significant progress in key policy areas that ICA has been working on for many years. The most important of these are unfair contracts protections, small business ombudsman and reforms to the Tax Office with respect to the allocation of Australian Business Numbers. In addition, ICA has reacted to several new policy issues as they emerged.
ICA insurance offering through BizCover
In the later part of 2014, ICA was pleased to secure an insurance offering with BizCover which is specifically tailored to the needs of self-employed people.
Forum with Senators Bob Day & David Leyonhjelm, 31 July
A major highlight of the year was the highly successful forum with independent Senators Day and Leyonhjelm. Around 70 people attended the after-work forum.
Federal Small Business Ministerial Advisory Council
ICA Executive Director Ken Phillips is a member of the Federal government’s Small Business Advisory Council. This peak body provides a unique opportunity for ICA to obtain information and provide input into the government’s agenda. Inquiries and reviews operating through the Council in 2014 include:
- Financial System.
- ASIC and small business.
- Fair Contracts for Small Business.
- Small Business Ombudsman.
- Superannuation compliance costs for small business.
- Board of Taxation Review of the ATO’s impact on small business.
- Competition Review.
Reports on each of these reviews are due in late 2014–early 2015 and will form the basis of policy reform during the first term of the government.
G20 Small Business Forum, 20 June
Australia has the Presidency of the G20 Forum for 2014. As part of the policy build-up to the November Heads of Government meeting in Brisbane, ICA was an active participant in the Small Business forum conducted in Melbourne in June.
Institute of Public Accountants
The Institute of Public Accountants is one of Australia’s major accountant representative organizations. It has a major focus on small business. ICA attended its forum in Canberra on 25 June to discuss its excellent White Paper on small business policy.
SEAANZ Conference Sydney, July
Small Enterprise Association of Australian and New Zealand is a peak academic and policy body affiliated with the peak global small business academic association. Executive Director Ken Phillips and board member Tui McKeown are on the board of SEAANZ and both were active participants at the highly successful National Conference in Sydney.
ICA is in regular and productive liaison with the Small Business Council of WA (COSBA) on a range of issues that are important to both bodies.
ICSB Conference Dublin, July
ICA board member Tui McKeown attended the peak global small business conference in Dublin in July.
ICA was most fortunate to have columnist for The Australian, Grace Collier, attend and speak at our August board meeting. Several weeks later, Grace had a column in The Australian on the issue of the ATO refusing to issue ABNs.
ISBC Pan Asian Congress, November 2013
In late November 2013, ICA Executive Director Ken Phillips attended the Pan Asian Congress on small business in Macau.
The focus of ICA is to promote the reform of regulations which affect small business people.
Unfair contract protections
One of ICA’s long-term priorities has been a push for the creation of unfair contract protections for small business people. This has been adopted as a core policy platform of the Abbott Federal government. ICA made a submission to the government’s inquiry into the issue.
ICA has had major discussions on the matter with the Australian Logistics Council, the Australian Bankers Association, Telstra and the Shopping Centre Council Australia (SCC). ICA and the Shopping Centre Council have found common ground—namely, that the SCC will not oppose the reforms and ICA accepts that the proposed laws do not need to cover retail tenancy leases as these are already adequately covered by existing laws in the state jurisdictions.
Paid Parental Leave
Upon invitation, ICA made input into the proposed PPL scheme, commenting on issues affecting self-employed people.
We lodged an objection with the ACCC to Toll and the TWU having enterprise bargaining under competition laws. This sprang from Toll’s admissions in the Royal Commission into union corruption that Toll made secret payments to the TWU on the condition that the TWU engage in oppressive and anti-competitive activities against Toll’s competitors. ICA has been advertising on SEEK.com for owner-drivers to lodge complaints they may have about the treatment they receive under their contracts.
The Australian Establishment
In February, Ken Phillips argued in The Australian that Australia is heavily controlled by a big business, big union, big government establishment. He spoke further on this at the Mannkal Foundation in Perth in April.
‘No’ to corporate welfare
In early 2014, ICA argued that corporate welfare should be stopped, as the process effectively meant that small businesses’ taxes were subsidizing inefficient big businesses.
Through the efforts of ICA board member Kathie Thomas, ICA has had considerable dialogue with ASIC on improving its business name registration procedures and other issues.
In a major submission to the Productivity Commission review into infrastructure construction ICA argued that big unions and big businesses are in collusion to suppress competition on the sector. The people who most directly suffer are the small sub-contractors.
ICA also wrote an open letter to Boral who have been under attack from the construction union the CFMEU.
Board of Taxation Review into ATO
ICA made a lengthy submission to the Board of Taxation Review into the operations of the Australian Taxation Office and its impact on small business. We argued that the ATO is plagued by systemic inefficiency.
In preparing the submission we asked members to contribute their stories. A considerable number were received. These were incorporated into the core of the submission, placing on the record the poor behaviour and administration of the ATO.
We have had repeated discussions with ATO officials on a range of issues. We put a series of questions to the Tax Commission and received this response.
Small Business Ombudsman submission
ICA is a strong supporter of the establishment of a federal small business ombudsman. However, this should only cover areas not covered by the state Small Business Commissioners. Here’s our submission.
Small business people in the timber industry
ICA has been working to defend the 15,000 small business people who import timber into Australia. They are to become subject to criminal sanctions if they unknowingly import timber or timber products that contain illegally logged timber. The issue is that the new laws are impossible to comply with.
ICA has been working for some years on the development of the Entrepreneurial Index. This measures the impact of government regulations on the ability of individuals to be self-employed and hence entrepreneurial.
This has been developed in partnership with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Canada.
- In March, Ken Phillips met with the Professional Contractors Group (PCG) in the UK to discuss the Index.
- In May, Ken spent two weeks in Canada on a five-city tour launching the Index and also spent time in Massachusetts discussing their ‘misclassification’ issues. See here and here.
- In July, ICA Vice-President Matthew Franceschini met with PCG in London to conduct further discussions.
- In September, Ken Phillips attended a workshop on labour issues in Washington and discussed and presented the Index within this context.