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Mood of the SMEs: More upbeat about economy, but decidedly downbeat about government


Might the two millions SMEs be swing voters in this year’s elections?

Potentially, they could, especially when disgruntled. Over half of the small businesses are exactly that and have remained so over the past year, notably because of the red tape, and hold a long list of grievances.

MYOB – quick to seize on the September general elections as well as the recent appointment of a fifth minister for small business in less than three years – surveyed 1,005 entrepreneurs to sense the mood of the SMEs.

The study’s most positive finding – dissatisfaction with government has come off a record high of 57% in 2012.

The sobering ones – 54% still remain dissatisfied; satisfaction levels dropped three percentage points to 14%; and a higher 32% were “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied,” up from 25% in the previous study.

“There’s a likely relationship between the slight fall in SMEs’ dissatisfaction with the federal government and their increasing confidence in the domestic economy,” said MYOB CEO Tim Reed.

MYOB’s research indicates that 25% expect the economy to improve within 12 months and 72% expect increased or stable revenue in the next year, indicating “the tide is turning for Australia’s economic engine,” he added.

“However, one in two SMEs were dissatisfied with government support and a growing proportion indifferent. These businesses are the bedrock of our GDP health, so to give them a voice MYOB explored the initiatives and policies that will turn their vote at election time. This revealed telling messages for government,” Reed said.

Here are the Top 10 issues, out of 15 offered in the survey, along with SMEs votes that suggest an agenda for the government:

1.    Policies that significantly simplify the GST/BAS reporting process – 65%

2.    The abolition of the carbon tax – 63%

3.    More federal government investment in transport infrastructure in our major states and cities – 61%

4.    A reduction in payroll tax – 57%

5.    Increased federal government funding for skills, training and apprenticeship programs – 57%

6.    Increased government funding for innovation, research and development by Australian businesses – 53%

7.    Waiving penal interest charges on late tax payments for startup businesses in their first two years of operation – 53%

8.    Providing free government-funded training to all small businesses on how to use the Internet to enhance and grow their business – 51%

9.    The creation of a single flat tax for personal tax and company tax – 49%

10. Further cutting government expenditure to return to surplus faster – 42%

“Independent business owners and managers continue to call for tax reform, deregulation and the reduction of red tape,” said Reed. “The federal government has plenty of fodder for policy consideration in the run-up to the election this year.”

Pointing out that “significant level of paperwork and compliance required by the government is a common pain point,” Reed cited Victoria’s recent appointment of a red tape commissioner. “Perhaps, this should be expanded to a national posting,” he said.

Other major findings of the MYOB survey:

  • The agribusiness, forestry and fishing sector were the industry group most dissatisfied with federal government support (66%)
  • More than half of the startups were dissatisfied with government support (51%), up from 39% in July.
  • Nearly three-fifths of Queenslanders were dissatisfied with the federal government’s support – the highest proportion of any state.
  • Operators in New South Wales were the most satisfied, at 19%
  • More than two-fifths (43%) were dissatisfied with their state government, down from 49% in 2012.

The March 2013 MYOB Business Monitor survey was conducted by Colmar Brunton.