So who really is campaigning for small business?
Well, well, you know that there is an election coming when politicians get a bit more sensitive. That’s the thing about your average politician.
They all want to be praised for their good work and want us to overlook their failures. The problem is that sometimes there is little or no good work, and plenty of failures.
This brings us to the small business policy area. It’s an area where few politicians venture, except to say how important small businesses are to the economy.
There are lots of motherhood statements, and even more hollow promises. It’s a challenge for both sides of politics.
The Small Business portfolio is a particularly challenging one. That’s why we rarely see meaningful action from the relevant Minister. Minister Craig Emerson is but one example. Now, sadly Minister Emerson doesn’t like this author reviewing the Minister’s small business policy statements.
After my last column the reaction from Minister Emerson was barbed as it was personal. What had this author done? Well, this author had pointed out that the Minister’s announcements regarding his proposed changes to unconscionable conduct and franchising laws were window dressing. With this author having helped craft those original laws and having over 20 years experience in those areas of law one would have thought the author would have some standing to make such comments. Not so, according to Minister Emerson.
When asked on Canberra radio about the author’s comments regarding the window dressing exercise that the Minister was undertaking regarding laws of importance to small business, the Minister appeared to suggest that this author’s views should be discounted because this author had been seen “campaigning for the Liberal candidate for the Federal seat of Hughes.” Further, the Minister suggested that the author should have disclosed that.
Now that’s interesting for a number of reasons. To begin with, there is the obvious point that this author’s column is concerned with informing readers about issues and not personalities. The old adage of “playing the ball rather than the person” is firmly in this author’s mind. Where relevant, of course, the reader is informed that the author is more directly involved such as when writing columns about the Birdsville, Blacktown and Richmond amendments to our competition laws.
As for campaigning for the Liberal candidate in the Federal seat of Hughes it’s apparent that as Minister Emerson is doing such a splendid job informing all and sundry that one would have thought that this author’s involvement in the campaign in Hughes is already well known, especially to radio listeners and newspaper readers.
Of course, we should not lose sight of the fact that this is not about this author, but about what is being done for small business. So, who is really campaigning for small business?
Now that’s where it gets really interesting about this author’s involvement in Hughes. For starters the Liberal candidate – Craig Kelly – is a friend of mine. He is a small business person who has worked in a very successful family business all his adult life. He is the President of a small business association called the Southern Sydney Retailers Association. He and this author have been working on small business issues for years and did so long before he joined a political party. Craig Kelly is a model small business person.
So, what changed? Well, for years Craig Kelly would ask the author why politicians on both sides of politics were doing very little, if anything, for small business. The simple answer was that many of the politicians simply don’t understand small business. Where they did try and stand up for small businesses, they were quickly jumped on by the big end and town and their hired guns including industry associations and the big end of town lawyers.
This author’s advice was simple. If you want to make a difference, then you need to do it yourself. Why don’t you think about standing for Parliament? It’s advice that this author has given to many over the years, including to his students. What Party does this author suggest joining? This may sound corny, but that’s a matter for the person to decide.
This author does, however, tell the want –to-be politicians that his support, if sought, is given irrespective of what party the person joins. Do you know why? Simply because if the person believes in small business it doesn’t matter which party they join. The person’s convictions and willingness to enter public life will drive that person to work towards the particular party delivering meaningful law reforms for small business.
This author’s advice and support is freely given whether or not the person joins a political party or irrespective of which political party the person joins. Small business is and should always be bipartisan.
Now if Minister Emerson feels that it’s important that this author’s “campaigning” be at all times revealed, then the following provides a convenient summary of this author’s “campaigning” for all sides of politics.
Let’s start with the Labor side of politics. Minister Emerson may perhaps like to consult with his Federal Parliamentary colleagues such as Ministers Chris Bowen and Stephen Conroy regarding this author’s campaigning with them on competition issues over the years, especially when Federal Labor was in opposition.
Then there is Tony Piccolo, a South Australian Labor backbencher for whom this author wrote a franchising law which was heavily relied upon during his recent very successful re-election campaign. Of course, we should also mention this author’s appointment to the NSW Small Business Development Corporation by a NSW Labor Government.
This author wrote the Birdsville Amendment against predatory pricing for Senator Barnaby Joyce, an amendment that received support from the then Liberal Government and ultimately Parliament. We should also mention advice given to Family First’s Senator Steve Fielding and the Australian Greens. Finally, there is well known campaigning on small business issues with Independent Senator Nick Xenophon.
What’s the common thread? No conspiracies here Minister Emerson. Just a willingness by this author to support anyone that supports small business regardless of political colour or flavour!
Maybe there’s something in that for everyone. Let’s stop talking about how we are going to support small business, and actually move to enact strong and effective competition laws to ensure that small businesses are not driven out of business by the anti-competitive conduct of larger players.
And, just in case you’re wondering Minister Emerson, this author is not a member of any political party.
With this Federal Labor Government’s love of “revolutions” this author would invite the Minister to come out and visit the Federal seat of Hughes where there is glorious revolution taking place. One where a small business person is actually standing up for small business so that if elected he can take the small business message straight to Parliament.
And, yes, this author is proud to help Craig Kelly in the same way he has been proud to help others right across the political spectrum to deliver the small business and competition message.
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