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10/9/2018 — Economics, Politics and Government
National hits a nerve with small business
By Dene Mackenzie

The National Party’s focus on concerns of small and medium-sized businesses appears to be paying early dividends.

National leader Simon Bridges and small business spokeswoman Jacqui Dean last week launched a month-long consultation with small businesses who said they were being neglected by the Government.

Mrs Dean said 2,000 people had submitted on National’s “Have your say” campaign for small businesses, which showed concern from small business owners and their willingness to be heard.

The fact 2,000 people submitted as part of National’s policy development process after just five days shows small businesses have good ideas but feel like they’re being ignored by the Government.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had earlier launched her Business Advisory Council, led by Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon, as she attempted to reconnect with the business community.

Business confidence in New Zealand has slumped since the election last year.

Businesses cite a lack of direction in Government policy, changes to labour laws and the prospect of changes to the tax system among their concerns.

Criticism followed launch of the council, mainly because Luxon led one of New Zealand’s largest companies and critics felt he had little knowledge of how small businesses operated.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) employ the majority of New Zealanders, including more than 90% of workers living south of the Waitaki River.

Ms Ardern said the council would complement work the Government was already doing with the Small Business Council and business and union representative groups through the Tripartite Forum.

The work would focus on macro-level economic strategy and active leadership on the Government’s economic agenda to build a more productive, inclusive and sustainable economy, she said.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones was critical of Luxon’s appointment, saying he did not speak for him. Jones has also weighed in on the appointment of the new chief executive for dairy company Fonterra. Mrs Dean said the Government was making it harder for owners of small businesses to do business.

It is piling on costs and beefing up the power of its union members. But it’s refusing to listen to their real concerns and that’s not good enough.

Ideas from the SMEs would all be considered as part of National’s policy development for the 2020 election, she said.

National would not make the same mistake as the Government by being too lazy to do the work in Opposition, which was why NZ had ended up with more than 160 working groups and reviews, Mrs Dean said.

*Dean Mackenzie is a Dunedin-based political commentator.

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National’s Jacqui Dean.