On election night, Tony Abbott declared that Australia was under new management and “once more open for business.” It was a striking line, which played well with the business sector hopeful of an end to the instability and uncertainty that has plagued growth for the last few years.
And the new Abbott government delivered for small business quickly.
As foreshadowed, Tony Abbott (where possible) transferred his Shadow Ministers into the Ministry, meaning Bruce Billson, who the sector knows well from his several years in the Shadow role, became the Minister for Small Business. Before the election, the Coalition had promised to put small business at the heart of their government and again they delivered quickly, making Bruce Billson MP a dedicated Minister for Small Business, a refreshing change from past practice of attaching small business to a larger portfolio, like industry or tourism. And, importantly, the Minister for Small Business now sits in Cabinet meaning the sector will be represented at all discussions around economic and policy settings. Moving the Minister to Cabinet will be supported by shifting Departmental responsibilities for small business policy from the Industry department to the Treasury. In making this decision, the government stated that as economic policy is made in the Treasury, that’s where small business should sit.
This provides some serious firepower to the Abbott government’s aim to grow the small business sector.
Minister Billson even ruffled a few feathers in his first days on the job warning the Australian Tax Office to end its “attack” on independent contractors and the self-employed. The Minister foreshadowed that the Abbott government would be encouraging independent contractors and the self-employed, calling them “courageous, enterprising, self-motivated individuals.” But it’s not all good news with the government still planning to scrap the instant asset tax write-off as well as cancelling the loss carry-back provisions as part of their savings strategy. The loss carry-back scheme was introduced in the 2012 budget and allows small business to “carry back” losses to offset past profits, giving them a tax refund. Foreshadowed in Opposition, and opposed by the Coalition in the Parliament, it comes as no surprise, but it may still disappoint many in small business. It’s now a case of “wait and see” as to how quickly the government delivers on its other promises, like cutting red tape for small business, but I think we’re off to a promising start.