Overview of 2010
A highly active year again for ICA, with the main features being:
- The finalisation of the Federally funded SBAS programme.
- Continued development of our website: www.contractworld.com.au
- Consolidation and expansion of ICA’s finances.
- Investigations into the development of ICA’s global agenda.
- Enhancing our domestic lobbying position by becoming active in COSBOA.
- Strong involvement in the 2010 August Federal election.
- Success on a number of policy fronts, particularly with the PSI tax laws.
ICA’s Board has a full complement of members (12) and has been fully active during the last 12 months, with 8 Board meetings being conducted.
Website and social media
Benefits from the 2009 website upgrade continue to be felt, with traffic to the site up more than 60% on 2009 and approaching the 4,000 unique viewers a month range. Late in 2010 we finally set up ICA’s Facebook and Twitter pages and these will be developed during 2011. The style of mass emails was refined further in 2010 making these more effective as well.
Ken Phillips continues to write for Business Spectator which greatly increases exposure for ICA. Review and upgrade of the website remains an ongoing priority.
ICA has working relationships with a range of government departments involved in small business issues.
- ATO: ICA continues the long-standing and active engagement with the ATO and attended the three full day ATO micro-business consultative committee meetings during 2010. We continued to update our website with useful ATO links.
- Department of Innovation: During 2010 the Department released their excellent information booklet for independent contractors. ICA was consulted extensively by the department on the booklet which we publicise on our website.
- ACCC: Relationships with the ACCC developed during 2010 with involvement in research considerations. We also lobbied the ACCC on the Telco scam issue.
ICA was proud to release the results of major research undertaken in partnership with Monash University, the Roy Morgan Research Centre, Australian Taxation Office and the Commonwealth Bank. The ‘desk audit’ is available on the website and provides a unique profile of self-employed people which explodes a range of myths about self-employed people.
We continue to network with other organisations on research, publishing relevant outcomes on our website. Our objective is to build up a unique profiling data-base. Further, we have developed proposals for more extensive research and are active in seeking funding for same.
Large business ‘reach-out’
ICA takes the view that small and large businesses have common cause on many issues. During 2010 we undertook approaches to around 80 of Australia’s largest businesses about our Charter of Contractual Fairness. Good responses were received from many companies with follow-up meetings occurring with about 15. Continuing dialogue is occurring with those companies.
2010 federal election
The federal political environment was volatile in 2010. Very late in 2009 the Liberal Party changed leadership. Then half-way through 2010 the ALP sacked the PM, choosing a new leader as PM. It then held an early election. We worked hard to promote our issues to all political parties. We were particularly successful with the Federal Coalition who took up a large number of our small business policy suggestions as their formal election policies. ICA was approached by mining associations to formally join the opposition to the proposed mining tax, which we did.
During 2010 ICA began efforts to create international networks around the agenda of the rights of self-employed people. In March, ICA CEO Ken Phillips did a speaking tour through Canada and spent networking time in Washington DC. Ken also attended and gave a paper at the International Small Business Conference in Taiwan in October. ICA joined the major academic SME organisation, the International Council for Small Business, through the local affiliate SEANNZ. ICA board member Tui McKeown attended a range of small business conferences and meetings in the UK and EU in mid-2010.
As usual, policy analysis and campaigning is the core and bulk of ICA’s focus and activity. The following were the major issues on which we worked in 2010:
- Contract Fairness: We see this as our most important issue, and although we cannot say any specific outcomes were achieved in 2010, we have introduced the concept at many levels in government and business. We developed, published and promoted our Charter of Contractual Fairness, taking it both to governments and large businesses. This is a long-term campaign.
- PSI decisions: This unexpectedly became a profile issues in 2010 when it became clear that the Federal Government was developing an agenda to effectively dispense with the existing PSI tax laws for self-employed people. The proposals for replacement laws would have significantly disadvantaged self-employed people and created major business tax confusion and complexity. ICA campaigned vigorously against any changes. In October, the federal government made press comments to the effect that it would not change the laws. ICA will continue to monitor this.
- Sham contracts: ICA continues to monitor court cases in relation to sham contracts and encourages the Fair Work Ombudsman to take action against sham contracts where these are discovered.
- Superannuation: ICA followed this closely during 2010, particularly from the perspective of the right of people to run Self Managed Superannuation Funds. In the ‘Cooper Review’ of superannuation, it became obvious that the large super funds wanted to make life difficult for SMSFs. Fortunately the recommendations of the Cooper Review gave a big ‘tick’ to SMSFs and the federal government appears to have accepted these recommendations.
- OHS (work safety laws) harmonization process: This continued to attract considerable attention during 2010. A particularly important event was the High Court decision on ‘Kirk’. The High Court effectively declared the NSW model of OHS laws to be unconstitutional, thereby almost endorsing the proposed national harmonised OHS laws. ICA strongly supports the proposed harmonised laws.
- Parental leave: ICA joined COSBOA in welcoming the new paid parental leave laws while at the same time strongly criticizing the design for introducing unnecessary new red tape administrative complexity for small business people. The federal government has ignored this criticism.
- ICA engaged in discussions with the WA and Victorian governments on workers’ compensation reform affecting self-employed people. Much work needs to be done on this issue.
Departure of Craig Emerson MP from small business portfolio
We publicly recognised and we again thank Craig Emerson MP who held the federal small business and independent contractor ministerial post from 2007 until 2010. Craig undertook a wide range of practical initiatives to improve regulations for self-employed people. We thank him. Craig has moved on to the Trade portfolio.