Ombudsman calls for returned government to follow-through on SME commitments

| May 21, 2019

The focus on the small business sector in the lead-up to the election was a major factor in the win for the Coalition government, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Kate Carnell said today.

“A Sensis report a few weeks ago showed 35% of small to medium enterprises were undecided on who to vote for before the election, but they made their voice heard on the day and will expect the Coalition to act on its pre-election policy commitments,” Ms Carnell said.

“The returning government can start by responding to the review by Treasury of the unfair contract term legislation.

“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.

“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.

“The Coalition must re-introduce the legislation to address illegal phoenixing activity and provide some protection for small businesses, who often hurt the most when this happens.

“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.

“We are pleased the government committed to move to pay small businesses within 20 days from 1 July and then develop a plan to introduce payment terms of five days when small businesses use e-invoicing.

“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.

“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’.”