The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Kate Carnell, has called for the Coalition government to fulfil its promises to small business owners by acting on its pre-election policy commitments.
Carnell suggests responding to the Treasury’s review on unfair contract term legislation should be the first port of call for the Morrison government if they plan to commit to bringing a fairer state of play for the nation’s small to medium business owners.
“ASBFEO, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission and others have strongly recommended significant changes to the current unfair contract term legislation, backed by the Treasury report,” Carnell said.
“The major changes are making unfair contract terms illegal and punishable; increasing the contract size threshold to $1 million for contracts up to 12 months and $5 million for contracts greater than 12 months; and increasing the number of small businesses protected – those with a turnover of up to $10 million. The government should also require departments to comply with unfair contract term legislation,” she said.
In the lead up to the election, a Sensis report suggested 35 per cent of small business owners were undecided as to where to place their vote. Both major parties responded to this uncertainty by launching a swathe of promises meant to shore up small business votes, and Carnell believes it’s now time to see these promises bear fruit.
“There was a range of commitments made to small businesses during the election campaign and in the Budget and we look forward to working with the government to deliver on these to ensure SMEs continue to be the ‘engine room of the economy’,” said Carnell.
The Ombudsman welcomed the government’s commitment to move to pay small business within 20 days by July 1 and paid credit to the plan to develop an initiative to introduce payments of five days for those that use e-invoicing.
“Action on payment times for small businesses will lift confidence, particularly the government’s undertaking to force the country’s top 3,000 big businesses to publish payment information annually on a reporting framework,” said Carnell.
Still, the Ombudsman suggests that more could be done to assist SMB owners, particularly in areas of wellness and mental health.
“Addressing the mental health of small business owners is also something we support. Earlier this year, Minister Cash convened two roundtables with key stakeholders were held, with the commitment to develop a small business mental health portal specifically for business owners. This is significant as much of the workplace mental health focus has been on employees,” Carnell concluded.