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Small businesses call for red tape cuts
01/11/2005 - As one marathon ended, another began a lengthy six week Federal election campaign during which small businesses around Australia must speak up and make their collective voices heard.

Not surprisingly, one powerful voice has called for both sides of government to take a very serious look at the most time-consuming and costly impediments to small business the increasing amount of red tape small business faces.

Tony Stevens, CEO of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA), was quick off the mark with a string of concerns workplace relations, interest and small business loans and the overwhelming amount of paper work that takes up the very limited time for small business operators.

"But red tape impacts disproportionately on small businesses because they do not have the money or staff to devote solely to compliance tasks," says Mr Stevens.

"The processes small businesses have to wade through, whether dealing directly with government or with big business, which is also complying with the plethora of regulations, weighs heavy on business owners and managers.

"Small business needs the next government, Labor or Liberal, to acknowledge there is a problem with red tape, not only in terms of the forms to be filled in, but the procedures that have to be followed, the time and cost of compliance and the delays that occur when dealing with government agencies and big business suppliers."

"We have called in the past for an audit to be conducted so the scale of the problem can be assessed, and then addressed."

According to Mr Stevens, an audit of red tape would be a starting point for reform and the compliance burden on small business should be considered with every piece of regulation.

It was the major platform of the Howard government when in opposition in 1996 cut red tape by 50 percent. They either lied or have deliberately ignored small business pleas. Today, small businesses estimate red tape has between doubled and tripled.

Other major concerns are the Trade Practices Act and Industrial Relations.

"The Government has adopted a number of the recommendations from the Senate Inquiry into the Trade Practices Act held earlier this year, however we call on them to extend that support and adopt all the points from the Inquiry. This would help ensure small business is able to compete with market dominant companies without the threat of predatory pricing." Mr. Stevens adds.

"We also call on the Labor Party to ensure their changes to the Industrial Relations system do not have a detrimental effect on small business. We call for Australian Workplace Agreements to be retained and small business to be exempted from unfair dismissal laws and redundancy payments."

Mr Stevens says small businesses are also deeply concerned about possible rate rises.

"Whichever party gets into power, rate rises could be crippling for many small business owners who have used their homes as collateral to their loans," he says.

"We need every small business in Australia to make an effort and make their voices heard, call talk-back radio, write to newspapers, send e-mail to politicians (listed on the Parliament House website, and let them know first hand what we want."

He also flagged a very strong announcement concerning Telstra, the bane of tens of thousands of small businesses, in the next week.

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