When the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) partnered with Deakin University in 2015 to produce the first ever industry-led white paper on Australia’s small business sector, the focus was to develop policy recommendations to address Australia’s declining productivity.
Given that small businesses represent over 97 per cent of all businesses, employ 44 per cent of all workers, generate 40 per cent of all jobs and contribute one-third of GDP, then it is critical that we boost small business productivity.
The 2015 landmark Australian Small Business White Paper was based on a multitude of insights gained from small businesses, small to medium accounting practices and an array of government, regulatory and corporate stakeholders. These insights were supported by a significant body of research undertaken by the IPA Deakin SME Research Centre.
Following the release of the White Paper, the IPA embarked on a program of advocacy to drive government and policy-makers to take action in producing better outcomes for small business. Our advocacy has been rewarded with a number of our recommendations being adopted by both major political parties and by state governments.
Unfortunately, in the three years since the 2015 White Paper was released, little has changed. Our living standards remain under threat.
In late 2017, the IPA advocacy team, for the second time, conducted a nation-wide road show to gather feedback directly from hundreds of small businesses and to check the ‘temperature’ of the small business sector. The temperature was feverish with many small businesses crying out for help. Many of the concerns raised three years prior still existed. Areas such as taxation (including payroll tax), workplace relations law, and access to affordable and responsible finance, were just some of the areas found to be hindering small business growth and prosperity.
In 2018, the IPA Deakin SME Research Centre delivered the second edition of the Australian Small Business White Paper to address many of the concerns raised three years prior but also to recognise current market developments and new areas of concern raised throughout the IPA road show. These new additions included cybersecurity and mental health, which have become priority issues across the Australian economy, including for many small businesses.
Other areas of focus include: easing the regulatory overload; building a fair and sustainable taxation system; providing access to affordable finance and capital; designing innovation policy, which is a key driver of productivity, job creation and economic performance; developing a more balanced workplace relations system; making small business more competitive through fairer competition policy; encouraging and enabling more small businesses to engage in international trade and investment; and assessing and capitalising on the impact of technology.
Advocating for small business is a passion of the IPA. With more than 70 per cent of our members either being small businesses in their own right or servicing small business, our advocacy efforts are aligned to our Why factor; our purpose for being – to improve the quality of life of small business.
This becomes even more important as it also aligns with IPA’s vision: To have every small business with one of our members by their side.
The IPA’s advocacy efforts focus on the best interests of our members, the profession, small business and in the public interest. It comes in various forms: from hundreds of submissions to government, regulators and policy makers; to representation on many forums where we can carry a credible voice for our members and small business; to our media relations program; and of course, the work conducted through the IPA Deakin SME Research Centre.
We know when it comes to significant bodies of work such as the Australian Small Business White Paper, our work cannot rest on the laurels of producing a document which takes thousands of hours to produce. We need to keep up the good fight and extend a credible voice for all concerned. We encourage our members and all interested stakeholders to join us in making our voice louder for the benefit of all Australians.