Hendy Cowan

Hendy Cowan


Rob Johnson

Rob Johnson


    Coalition to build on strong small business performance

    22/01/2001 11:30 AM

    A range of initiatives to strengthen Western Australia’s position as the national small business leader has been announced by Deputy Premier and Minister for Small Business Hendy Cowan.

    There will be a focus on training and advisory services, with an extra $2.25 million allocated to the State’s 37 Business Enterprise Centres (BECs) and new programs aimed at encouraging more women and young people to consider small business opportunities.

    BECs, which are administered by the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC), provide information, guidance and other services to existing and prospective small business operators. Last financial year they addressed more than 89,000 inquiries and assisted 1,755 business start-ups.

    The extra funding will allow BECs to attract and retain experienced, professional business advisers and support staff.

    Further action will also be taken to ensure the rights and interests of small business are protected.

    Measures include consolidation of fair trading legislation to provide broader powers to crack down on rogue traders and to keep pace with e-commerce.

    Mr Cowan said there would be no further deregulation of trading hours without full consultation with the small business sector.

    He pledged that the Coalition would continue to support the use of workplace agreements by small business, in sharp contrast with Labor’s stance of rolling back labour market reform.

    At today’s policy launch, Mr Cowan said small business was the cornerstone of the WA economy.

    “Small businesses account for 96.5 per cent of businesses in the State and employ more than 330,000 people, almost half of the private sector workforce,” he said.

    “Over the past eight years under a Coalition Government, WA has consistently outperformed all other States in terms of small business growth.

    “Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last week indicate an annual average growth rate in the number of businesses of 4.9 per cent, compared with the national average of 3.7 per cent.

    “The economic stability and strong support for small business provided by the Coalition Government has played a major role in the State’s consistent and rapid growth.

    “This growth is a major reason why WA has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate of 5.9 per cent, compared with the double-digit rates experienced under Labor.

    “The efforts of the WA small business sector have resulted in some impressive achievements and the Coalition seeks to continue its strong supportive role in promoting a business environment that fosters innovation and enterprise.”

    Mr Cowan said the Government would place particular emphasis on assisting women and young people to participate in small business.

    “This Government has given greater recognition to the value that women in small business add to the community and the State economy,” he said.

    “As a result, the number of female small business operators is increasing at a faster rate than any other State, and at twice the rate of men.

    “If re-elected, the Coalition will establish a dedicated ‘Women in Business’ service through the SBDC to provide a comprehensive range of business advice specifically targeting the needs of women in business.

    “And in relation to youth, new programs designed to encourage young people to consider small business opportunities will also be developed, including assistance with business plans.”

    If re-elected, the Coalition will also:
    • maintain Small Business as a separate portfolio held by a senior Minister;
    • extend the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Tribunal to provide a low-cost means of resolving disputes between traders without having to resort to costly legal action;
    • provide business operators with a ‘Healthy Business’ diagnostic service on the state of their business;
    • establish an on-line small business counselling service at SBDC to provide confidential one-on-one counselling and advisory services;
    • provide funding to the SBDC to establish an Internet-based Training Needs Analysis program to enable small business operators to identify their own individual training needs;
    • review licensing arrangements for small businesses to reduce compliance and administration costs; and -
    • ensure greater consideration is given to the impact of legislation and regulations on small business.

    The Coalition Government will work hard to strengthen its partnership with small business in relation to Government work and contracts.

    Works and Services Minister Rob Johnson said the Government was committed to using its substantial buying power - worth almost $5 billion every year - to support small and regional businesses.

    The Government’s successful Buy Local policy ensures that at least 70 per cent of Government agency purchases are made locally. The Coalition Government has now pledged to increase that target to 80 per cent.

    “The Coalition Government is the first of any in Australia to use its enormous buying power to assist local and regional economies,” Mr Johnson said.

    “Small business has argued long and hard for a level playing field to access Government contracts. The Coalition has listened and introduced policies and initiatives to tilt the field in their favour.”

    Mr Johnson said a major adjunct to Buy Local was the development of the online Government Electronic Market - or Gem.

    Gem will direct Government purchasing officers to local businesses that can supply the goods and services they need ahead of interstate or international rivals.

    “The beauty of Gem is that it also enables businesses throughout the State - particularly small and regional businesses - to have direct access via the Internet to Government contracts and information,” Mr Johnson said.

    Another aspect of the Works and Services policy announced today would see all Government contracts worth $10,000 or above made public - a substantial reduction from the current requirement of $20,000.

    A requirement would also be introduced to ensure all major contracts utilised the services of an independent Probity Auditor.

    Mr Johnson said the Coalition had already increased transparency in contracting arrangements but these measures would enhance that commitment to open and accountable Government.

    Media contacts:
    Peter Jackson (Minister Cowan’s office) 9222-8788
    Fran Hodge (Minister Johnson’s office) 9215-4800