Well done! You published the front bench of each major party (sorry Nats and Greens, but you haven’t made much impression, except for Barnaby Joyce) to highlight their lack of diversity in background – yes most were lawyers or trade unionists. Not much difference, eh readers? Well, that reminds me of that joke, which could apply to both sides:

Having already downed a few power drinks, she turned around, faced him, looked him straight in the eye, and said, “Listen up, Buddy. I screw anybody, any time, anywhere, your place, my place, in the car, front door, back door, on the ground, standing up, sitting down, dirty, clean . . . it doesn’t matter to me. I’ve been doing it ever since I got out of college and I just love it.”

Eyes now wide with interest, he responded, “‘No kidding. I’m a _______ too. Which _______ are you with?”

Seriously, there are a couple of farmers and fish industry people but one thing stands out – in the major parties there is no real representation from the small business sector (probably because no-one in their right mind generally leaves it for parliament, same might be said as to standing for local government in the city, not a great lifestyle choice).

And sure, there are a few in the ALP with some long-ago experience as employees but not as long term SME owners:

  • ALP: Mr Joel Fitzgibbon MP, was an auto electrician 1978-90, after which he scored a job in EJ Fitzgibbon’s electoral office.
  • ALP: Mr Tony Burke MP, Member for Watson: Sales and shop assistant 1982-91
  • ALP: Senator Ursula Stephens, Small business operator 1992-96 (No detail as to this mystery SME)

The Libs aren’t much better, although Jim Lloyd and Fran Bailey appear closer to the SME coalface.

  • LIB: The Hon Mal Brough MP, Member for Longman: Private sector business 1988-96 (No detail as to this mystery SME).
  • LIB: The Hon Jim Lloyd MP, Member for Robertson: Dairy products distributor 1973-85, Service station proprietor 1993-95.
  • LIB: The Hon Gary Nairn MP, Member for Eden-Monaro: Graduate surveyor 1972-75, Registered surveyor in private practice 1975-83, Managing director, surveying and mapping consultancy 1983-96.
  • LIB: The Hon Fran Bailey MP, Member for McEwan: Business manager of family company, Retailer 1981-85, Cashmere goat breeder and exporter 1984-90, Business consultant 1994-96.

For the Nats, Barnaby Joyce has carved out a niche in some areas of interest to SME’s. The Senate could be the place for small business representation and negotiation, but seats are mostly with the majors.

  • NATS: Senator Barnaby Joyce, Small Practice Accountant (in Country Town).


  • IND: The Hon Peter Andren MP, Member for Calare: Broadcaster [to retire, sadly].
  • IND [ex NATS]: The Hon Bob Katter, Member for Kennedy: labourer, insurance, small mining and cattle interests.
  • IND: The Hon Tony Windsor MP, Member for New England: Farmer.

Overall, not much here for the SME sector in the two main parties. None of that experience with banks, regulation, staff, red tape, tax, risk and cash flow where, as someone said to me at a recent SME conference, “the small business coalface is where you’ve had to use the credit card to pay the wages”.

As a 50-year-old small business owner, I really feel ignored by both ALP and Libs. Look at their websites — all a bit shallow for SME’s.

I don’t particularly like WorkChoices for what it has allowed large corporations to do to staff. Yet many SME’s like some of the other provisions; eg, those that redefine a small business’s commitment to its employees and seek some balance with this within in staff.

There is a fundamental difference between big and small business when it comes to staff and looking after them — small business value their staff, we work with them daily, live their ups and downs and are a big part of their daily lives. SME customers prefer local businesses with familiar, experienced faces. SME’s always lead with new conditions; eg, flexi-time, family leave, school holidays and overall conditions, because our staff are important to our businesses and us and we feel their needs.

And Big business, well, think Spotlight and Qantas and you start to get the drift. And don’t forget “big” small business, that is, the chains who generally reside in shopping centres but are now creeping back into High Streets where rents and refits are not underwriting Westfield’s stellar performance. Many of these chains have been less than reasonable with employee practices in recent times.

And we shouldn’t forget how some big business really screws small business. We’ll await the petroleum enquiry report (Hint: watch out for Election Eve lads) to confirm how deep and destructive this is in that sector. Good, strong petrol policy can win this election.

With the explosion in consulting, retail, building, IT and service industries, the SME sector is now the biggest employer in Australia. The Nats’ website says there are more than 1.2 million small businesses in Australia employing nearly half the national workforce and generating up to 40% of the nation’s gross domestic product.

Yet we and our staff have been generally given lip service by the major parties in recent elections.