Regulatory Roundup – October 2013

Business groups react favourably to Coalition victory, but outline wants

Business groups have largely welcomed the new Coalition government, but outlined a few areas that are still in need of reform – namely the red tape burden, infrastructure and industrial relations. The Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA) chief executive Peter Strong said he would work with the new government to remove unnecessary red tape, confront the issue of bullying by the big landlord, put an end to the “damaging domination” by the Coles-Woolsworths duopoly, and improve workplace relations. Similarly, Australian Industry Group (AIG) chief executive Innes Willox said the election outcome had the potential to deliver a much-needed period of political stability but pointed out a few areas in need of reform – education and training, the high regulatory burden on businesses, sustainable energy, and business innovation.

New Small Business Minister, with small business department now part of Treasury

Former shadow minister for small business, competition policy and consumer affairs Bruce Billson was sworn in as Australia’s Minister for Small Business, as it was announced that the small business portfolio would be elevated to a cabinet position and moved into the Department of Treasury – two decisions that were broadly welcomed by the business community. Various industry bodies said the integration into cabinet would ensure small business voices were heard more, while many lauded the appointment of Billson and his established experience in dealing with small businesses. First on Billson’s agenda seems to be a desire to stop the Tax Office and Fair Work Ombudsman’s crackdown on independent contractors and the self-employed, saying “those who are legitimate don’t deserve to be harangued, made to have their life more difficult, disrespected and devalued”.

Survey puts “policy simplification” at top of small business wish list

Research by accounting software provider Intuit QuickBooks on what small businesses want from the new government revealed that the paring back of red tape was the highest item on the wish-list of 58% of respondents. Within the “policy simplification” category, 59% of business owners said the new government should concentrate on reducing the number of regulations, while 41% thought the government needs to consult more with industry participants before introducing new legislation in the future. A little more than 33% said the government needs to open up better communications with small business owners about existing regulations.

ASIC releases database of all assets that are not on the Personal Property Securities Register

The Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) was rolled out early last year, but some businesses have still not registered their security interests. A list released by ASIC revealed that many assets had not been carried over to the new register – if you find your business on this list, register your security interests or risk losing your assets if a customer goes bankrupt.

ABS finds business is spending more (up to $18.3 billion) on R&D

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said business spending on research and development (R&D) had grown to reach $18.3 billion in 2011-12, according to its latest report. The ABS said that the 2% increase from the previous year was largely driven by R&D expenditure across four industries – manufacturing (24%), mining (22%), financial and insurance services (16%), and professional, scientific and technical services (16%). Businesses in the mining industry reported the largest growth in R&D spend, increasing by $265 million over the last financial year, but the largest change in R&D expenditure for any industry was a decrease of $331 million for manufacturing.

Retail sales may recover with rise in housing prices and activity: Deloitte

Forecaster and economic consultant Deloitte Access Economics said the housing sector will be the catalyst for increased levels of retail spending in its recent retail forecast. Deloitte Access Economics partner David Rumbens said: “House prices are starting to lift, and typically when people are bidding up the price of housing they are also lifting their rate of retail spending. With housing affordability much improved from two years ago, this channel may form a powerful driver.” Rumbens said rising population growth, a period of underbuilding, and the interest rate incentive may also bring on a lift in retail spending.

Family businesses should be seen as a different sector, says report

A report from a parliamentary joint committee issued earlier this year said the unique characteristics of family businesses are often overlooked as they are commonly seen as a subset of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The report examined a wide range of issues affecting family businesses – from the lack of a definition of what a “family business” is to succession planning issues and the role of tax and family trusts. A separate study by KPMG and Family Business Australia found the top five strengths of being in a family businesses were: shared values and ethos; family support network; vision and strategy; having a strong brand; and good customer service.

What kind of entrepreneur are you? Chances are you’re a “risk-taker” or “competitor”

In partnership with organisational psychologist Kirsty Bucknell, Commonwealth Bank surveyed 475 Australian business owners and decision makers to find the four most dominant entrepreneurial types:

  • risk-taker (24%) – they are not afraid to take the plunge with business decisions others might consider precarious or uncertain
  • competitor (20%) – they fight to be the best and are not shy about wanting to win or going up against opponents in business
  • achiever (15%) – they like to score goals and set the bar high with challenging tasks and then work exceptionally hard to ensure they get there, and
  • individualist (15%) – they make their own rules, their own decisions and do not like following orders, preferring the freedom to seek out and explore their own unique methods and approaches in business.

Tablet users between 40 and 49 years old the latest wave of online customers: Sensis

The number of SMEs with optimised websites for mobile devices has almost doubled from 9% in 2012 to 17% in 2013. A new Sensis E-Business report revealed that 96% of Australians are now online, with 50% accessing the internet via a tablet (up from 34% in 2012) and 68% via a smartphone (up from 58% in 2012). Tablet use was highest among Australians aged between 40 and 49 years old who used their device to look for information on products and services, while smartphone use was favoured by teenagers and twenty-somethings, who were more likely to look at maps, weather updates and social media – a distinction SMEs should take into consideration while devising their marketing strategies.