Hasluck MHR Tania Lawrence, federal Small Business Minister Julie Collins and state Small Business Minister Jackie Jarvis. Picture: Andrew Williams

Small business ministers grilled

Many of the entrepreneurs expressed their frustrations at how inflation and the current cost of living crisis has impacted their businesses.
February 22, 2024
Andrew Williams

STATE and federal ministers fielded questions from small business owners from across the City of Swan and Perth Hills about the challenges faced in the sector at an event hosted by the Swan Chamber of Commerce on Monday, February 19.

The event, held at the Crooked Spire in Midland, saw the state and federal Small Business ministers Jackie Jarvis and Julie Collins, alongside Hasluck MHR Tania Lawrence, acknowledge the difficulties small businesses face.

The three politicians, who have all previously owned private businesses, thanked the business owners for taking time out of their day to come to the event, understanding that it was most likely costing them money to do so.

“We know that small businesses have been doing it tough,” said Ms Collins.

Many of the entrepreneurs expressed their frustrations at how inflation and the current cost of living crisis has impacted their businesses with concerns the government is not doing enough to assist the employers.

Ms Lawrence said the federal government was committed to assisting small business and cited outlawing of unfair contract terms, the small business energy initiative benefiting up to 3.8 million small to medium sized businesses, and the $41m allocated to small to medium businesses to cover energy costs.

Ms Jarvis said there were many relief programs that business owners are not taking advantage of, such as the joint state federal electricity credit, for those not billed by Synergy or Horizon Power.

“A lot of businesses are in embedded networks, in a shopping centre or strip mall, getting their electricity bill from their landlord. Not many have applied for the credit,” she said.

“The Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) has a mechanism where you can apply for the $650 electricity credit, which might be the difference between paying yourself as a business owner.”

She said the SBDC had many more resources available to help small business owners.

Other issues raised were the prohibitively high wages for staff, low staff retention rates, the allocation of time to meeting compliance, dealing with red tape, and concerns about the new right to disconnect legislation.

Ms Lawrence said the state and federal government are committed to creating innovative ways to cut through compliance challenges and red tape.

While Ms Collins said the right to disconnect laws were intended for rare cases as most small businesses had arrangements with employees.

Ms Collins then addressed questions about wages and said it’s a fine line to walk between protecting both employees and employers but ultimately Australians deserve a living wage, which means the businesses won’t be able to compete with much cheaper overseas labour.

“I don’t want Australia to become like the United States, where wages are low and people are working five jobs to survive,” she said.

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