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Federal election comment: politicians should be required to spend a week working in a local small business

Mark Fletcher
May 8th, 2019 · 4 Comments

I first wrote here in 2013 that State and federal politicians should be required to undertake a week of genuine paid work experience in a small business every year. I believe it today more than ever.

Right now in Australia, during this 2019 election campaign where small business barely rates a mention,  this idea ought to be put to every politician from all parties. While they are happy to visit small businesses, have their photo taken, shake some hands and move on to the next photo op. Each visit is stage managed to show them engaged with small business. Yet, they are not engaged.

Politicians who really want to engage with small business will seriously consider this proposal. Sadly, that means none will, from any side will.

Here is my proposal from 2013:

Despite small businesses employing more Australians than any other business block we receive less attention from our politicians. This is in part our own fault driven by disconnected representation and a lack of unity on issues.

One way to redress the disconnect between small business and politicians would be to require every politician, federal and state, to spend a week a year working in a  small business in their electorate – paid real work.

The business should be chosen by random ballot – to remove the opportunity for mates looking after mates.

Besides the practical work experience, the politicians would gain a better understanding of the life and challenges of everyday Australians.

I am confident that after a couple of years we would see this small business work experience program drive a more practical narrative from politicians of all sides- and not just a small business focused narrative but one also more connected with real life.

We can’t compete with the lobbyists who are paid a fortune to guide our politicians to outcomes they want. Hence my call for a legislated week of small business work every year for every politician.

Imagine what discussions about paid parental leave, GST changes, assistance for the car industry or workplace relations changes would be like in the cabinet room if everyone at the table had done a week of real work in a small business beforehand. They would have reference points relevant not only to our small businesses but also to our employee colleagues, their constituents.

Thinking about this further today, I am confident enforcing a week a year working in a small business in their electorate chosen at random would result in better government not only for small business owners but for all these small businesses serve for it would add to the experiences of the politicians and change their conversations.

For the record: This post has been written and authorised by Mark Fletcher, Richmond, Victoria.


Category: Newsagency management · Social responsibility

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Colin // May 8, 2019 at 8:36 AM

    I am not convinced small businesses need special treatment.

    Imagine a Royal Commission On Work Standards & Practices In Businesses.

    It would reveal :

    – Volume of unpaid hours by owners and sub contracted services

    – lip service given to paid breaks etc

    – prevalence of casual employment to avoid cost of holidays, sick leave, paternity leave, LSL

    – use of short shifts and outsourcing to circumvent regulations

    Many small businesses have to take whatever action necessary to survive and minimise these legislated costs. Big businesses employ lawyers to systemise avoidance in defendable employment and outsourcing arrangements.

    The system is bust. It’s a sham for regulators and politicians.

    Small businesses don’t need special treatment. What they need is a level playing field where every rule applies to all and no regulation is imposed that cannot be followed by all.


  • 2 Mark Fletcher // May 8, 2019 at 8:57 AM

    Not looking for special treatment. They say small business is the backbone of the country. My idea is to provide them with small business context for their decision making. real world and all that.


  • 3 Jason // May 8, 2019 at 7:00 PM

    When Tony Abbott (or any other politician you don’t like) draws the short straw to work in your business under this plan, what happens?


  • 4 Graeme Day // May 8, 2019 at 9:28 PM

    Jason, Uhh!
    What’s this got to do with any specific politician from either side?


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