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Self-employed, small business people are a key in this election: Here’s why

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Now that the federal election has been called (18 May) the importance of how self-employed people vote can be understood.

Demographer Bernard Salt gives an excellent analysis in this article from The Australian. Salt draws on ABS small business activity data calibrated to electoral boundaries. He looks at demographic changes between the last election in 2016 and now. He focuses on sole trader and small business activity.

On our figures there are more than 2,017,000 self-employed people in Australia. 1,288,000 are sole traders. 729,000 are small business people who employ 1–19 people. Combining the number of self-employed with the number of small business employees (about 4 million), this makes up more than half of the workforce with around 6 million people. If we surmise that half of these have a family member who is dependent on small business and that they are also voters, then we could be talking of (let’s say) 9 million voters. That’s a guess, but whatever the actual figure, it’s still a big slice of the 16 million voters in Australia.

Bernard Salt looks specifically at the 11 swinging electorates with margins of less than two per cent. He says these seats will largely determine the election outcome. Five are held by Labor and six by the Coalition. Here are the electorates.



In three of these electorates the number of small businesses that employ is on a steep rise. In another three electorates the numbers are rising, but at slower rates. In all 11 marginal electorates sole trader numbers have surged. Running alongside this, in all these marginal electorates more people are working than in 2016.

Few people vote on the basis of one issue alone. It’s generally a basket of issues that influence people. But for self-employed, small business people, their employees and families, the general environment in which they conduct business directly impacts their incomes, their sense of well-being and the choices they make in life.

We’re putting together comparative analyses of the Coalition’s and Labor’s policies on vital areas that affect small business entrepreneurship, success and stability.

We will cover areas such as:
  • Tax rates – How much is left in your pocket after tax.
  • ATO behaviour – ‘Sovereign risk’ imposed on small business by the ATO.
  • Timely payments – Will you get money owed to you?
  • Fair contracts – Will the commercial/legal system treat you fairly?
These issues have big impacts on whether or not small businesses can flourish. We think they are important issues in this election.

We will release our analyses in the lead-up to the election.



Election comment authorised by Ken Phillips, Melbourne.
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