Sadly, like many small business ministers from both sides of politics before him, Chris has no hands-on small business experience.
Political parties need to understand that one way they can engage small businesses is to appoint a minister with real-life small business experience. They also need to appoint someone with the time necessary to do the portfolio justice.
If small business is as important as politicians say they they can demonstrate this with an appropriately skilled minister who has enough time in their schedule and a sufficiently strong voice to represent what we keep being told is a vital part of the Australian economy.
In this situation, where the minister has no small business experience, I’d like to see his time invested in genuinely connecting with small businesses, on the shop floor, in the back room and engaging in a practically way that leaves a meaningful impression of the challenges of small business.
For example, I would love Chris Bowen, our new minister for small business to:
- Understand the damage the government-owned and protected Australia Post retail shops does to our small business newsagencies every day.
- Understand cost to us of the protected banking system in terms of exorbitant transactional fees and unfair terms for small businesses.
- See and feel the competitive pressure from the supermarket duopoly.
- Realise the high cost of retail space in Australia compared to elsewhere in the world.
- Understand the cost of penalty rates we have to pay when there is no penalty to the employee for working the hours they prefer.
- See the inflexibility of some aspects Fairwork.
- Learn why many of us do what we do and would probably not choose any other business.
- See the impact we have and value we bring to our local communities.
- Understand why small and independent retailers are important to the country economically, socially and environmentally.
I am sending a letter to Chris Bowen welcoming him and covering these points.
Newsagencies provide an excellent place for any politician to learn about and understand small business. A week in our businesses could help them meet more local constituents than they would meet in a week of door knocking.