A year of progress for Australia’s SMEs

| December 29, 2017

The small business sector enjoyed some notable achievements in 2017 but challenges loom on several policy fronts, according to Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell.

Ms Carnell said her inquiries this year into small business loans and payment times had yielded significant benefits for small businesses.

“A highlight was the Federal Government announcing it will introduce 15-business-day payment terms for small business suppliers,” she said.

“There has also been improved payment performance from many big businesses following my inquiry and the adoption of a voluntary code.

“Cash flow is king for small business. Delayed payments can cripple operations, increase costs and restrict growth.”

Ms Carnell said her small business loans inquiry had resulted in the major banks introducing fairer, plain-English contracts.

“This was a major step forward and will end the practice of banks calling in a loan when all repayments are up to date just because they feel like it,” she said.

The Ombudsman’s office continued to record an increased number of calls for assistance from small businesses in 2017.

In the July-September quarter, there were 614 contacts requesting help with resolving disputes. This represented a 27 per cent increase on the previous three months.

Of these requests, the vast majority – 577 – were business-to-business disputes.

Ms Carnell said her 5 highlights of 2017 included marriage equality as well as improved payment times, fairer loan terms in small business contracts, lower penalty rates and an SME-friendly friendly Federal budget.

Building on this success, her office has mapped out an ambitious program for 2018 to elevate small-business issues on the national policy agenda.

She said the ASBFEO is currently looking at access to justice and government procurement, for example, and her office will continue to argue for red-tape reduction and simplified workplace relations.

In addition to winning a greater share of government procurement contract for the countries’ SMEs, better access to justice and reducing red tape, Ms. Carnell will also campaign for improvements in energy prices and the delivery of the National Broadband network.