Labor's small business revolt

A snapshot of small and medium business dissatisfaction with the Labor government shows a growing problem for Julia Gillard.

Small and medium-sized business has turned against the Gillard government in a way that has few parallels in our political history. And whereas in medium-sized and large enterprises the way the boss thinks has little impact on the employees, in small enterprises when the boss is really angry the employees listen because their jobs depend on it.

I believe small business anger was a big factor in the Anna Bligh decimation. When I wrote Gillard's perfect power storm (March 28) I received an avalanche of reaction both on Business Spectator and privately. Let me share with you some of the small business reaction because it adds a new dimension to that perfect storm.

– "As a small business employing six full-time and three part-time staff, I feel that I am gradually losing the ability to retain, and maintain, control of my business. My view, hopefully objective, is that I am being bombarded by an ever-increasing volume of inputs over which I have little if any control. Power and maritime union strikes are hitting my supply lines, the carbon tax, increasing superannuation payments, and lack of bank finance are hindering growth, credit rating agencies giving abysmal default settings if you refuse to give them your private data (that in turn can adversely impact upon overseas suppliers), and there are fluctuating exchange rates, government paperwork, and so the list goes on."

– "I am a Queensland business owner with strong connections across the demography. Bligh was unpopular because the Queensland government is responsible for high state charges, car registration charges, water charges, etc. Julia Gillard on the other hand has all the same baggage of rising costs, plus the carbon tax and, above all, most people dislike her."

– "I own a small business and depend upon stock from overseas to run my business. Now we have the MWU bringing Fremantle to a halt – again. Then the unions are shutting down BHP Billiton's coal mining operations in Queensland. Anthony Albanese is carrying on about a $250 million subsidy to help Australian shipping become "competitive" with overseas shipping lines. Why should we have to pay money that the country can't afford to support such operations as the MWU and its grandiose ambitions? Just when will all of this nonsense stop?"

– "Our economy has been hijacked, or at least significantly undermined, by impractical ideologists leaving us with very little room to manoeuvre. Productivity, efficiency or whatever one might call it is quite simply 'value for money'. Just go to the nearest small business which pays award wages and take a close look at their payroll to get a real idea of the problems involved. You will see that major retailers, other large service providers and manufacturers have real problems and issues. It is not just the 'high dollar' which is creating problems for us, it is our traditional industrial relations model which acts as a brake."

– "Here's a small example that has a compounding effect upon just part of my business. The rise in the cost of refrigerant gases will make electricity prices pale by comparison. Have they thought about the trickle-down effect on domestic appliances such as fridges and air-conditioning units? It won't hurt just in purchasing the new product, but also when they require a service technician to work on them. The gas – that will cost a fortune – has to be captured and every gram has to be accounted for in a paper war that will have public servants queuing up to become involved in. And who shall pay for this? All of us!"

– "Perhaps the government's policies are rapidly becoming a perfect storm of serious damage to small business in Australia – and that will not bode well either for the economy and jobs."

There are more but you get the message.

I can't see any new Labor leader, including the new small business minister, changing this groundswell of small business anger. Almost every day we see Tony Abbott visiting a small enterprise. He didn’t understand small business in the last election but he does now.