Small Business

Why Treasurer Swan got it wrong in the leadership stakes

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The last thing we need is another combatant in the Wayne Swan ‘bash a billionaire’ affair and so let’s consider what might be a more productive approach to the conflict between an embattled Government and the big end of town.

Last week Treasurer Wayne Swan singled out the likes of Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart for their apparent undermining of democracy and their attacks on “good public policy”.

You don’t have to be Laurie Oakes to work out that Labor seems set to promote the differences between the rich and the non-rich.

Clearly, the run of bad polls where the party has been in the 40 per cent range of the vote means they’ve lost heartland Labor voters, so Swan critics argue he is playing the envy card to win them back.

Simultaneously as the anti-billionaire rhetoric has been pumped up, just about every minister talking to the media is referring to small business in between bagging Tony Abbot.

The mining tax and the carbon tax will, according to Government, help small business and underpin more super for working Australians. This leads to the thinking that if a billionaire opposes the mining tax, by definition this guy or gal is anti-ordinary Australians.

This is basic politics 101 but it is not economics 101, nor leadership 101.

On the other hand, promoting the new Small Business Minister, Brendan O’Connor, to cabinet was something that I, and others, have been bellyaching about for nearly two decades. That was good politics, economics and leadership, which proves that good decisions can bring applause even from regular critics.

The irony of the Swan attack on some of the pushy billionaires who dare to passionately defend their businesses, their profits and what they think is a fair go, while at the same time courting small business, is that it creates a conflict that is not helpful for winning over new small business supporters.

Many aspiration-driven small business owners look to learn from the big end of town billionaires.

Even though Gerry Harvey might be having a temporary challenge with the online world, he has been one of Australia’s greatest ever retailers. And how he beats this new threat to his long-running success story is being watched closely by the army of small entrepreneurs who would crawl over broken glass to hear the secrets of success from someone like Gerry.

Ironically, it wasn’t long ago that the Government was in full praise of Andrew Forrest for his GenerationOne program, which aimed to create 50,000 indigenous jobs.

My greatest concern is that divisiveness might work in winning back some old Labor voters but it won’t represent a good platform for economic cohesiveness when the slow lane of the economy is really labouring.

Weak economic growth numbers showed most states, except Queensland and Western Australia are either going backwards or lucky to be growing at one per cent.

Meriton Apartments billionaire, Harry Triguboff, says he finds Mr Swan “charming” and they agree on one thing — they “both hate the Reserve Bank.”

Now that’s productive hating.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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