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"SMEs are critical to Australia's economic strength."

After many months of significant research and extensive consultation, the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), together with the IPA-Deakin University SME Research Partnership, has launched the very first Australian Small Business White Paper in Canberra on Wednesday 12 August. This landmark document will drive policy change to support a vital sector of the Australian economy - Small Business.

‘SMEs are critical to Australia’s economic strength – major contributors to Australian business economic output and crucial generators of new ideas,’ says Professor George Tanewski, Director of the IPA – Deakin University SME Research Partnership.  ‘While much of the public and media focus tends to be on big business, it is clear that lifting productivity in the small and medium-sized business sectors will hold the key to our chances of avoiding recession, and directing Australia into a new era of prosperity.’

A key objective of the White Paper is to shift policy discussion away from focusing only on the federal budget, and towards looking at how the small business sector can assist in lifting Australia’s national productivity. ‘Small business is a huge component of the economy, accounting for nearly half of private sector employment and one third of private sector industry value added. It is critical in helping to revitalise Australia’s productivity,’ says Professor Tanewski.

The White Paper builds upon many months of research and consultative work by the IPA Deakin University SME Research Partnership, as well as combining knowledge and feedback gained from two major industry conferences; the Regulation, competition and taxation: Challenges for small business and accountants in 2013 and Enhancing the Future for Small Business in Australia in 2014.

The Paper analyses in detail for the first time, a series of statistics and survey data from the ABS which demonstrate the prolonged stagnation in small to medium business productivity in Australia. It also presents a large body of research and evidence indicating that governments and small business need to focus on three key elements or pillars; human capital (people), financial capital (investment) and technological change (innovation) to improve this situation. The Paper presents a number of key recommendations focusing on these key pillars.

In 2013, the IPA partnered with Deakin University to form the IPA Deakin University SME Research Partnership, a first in Australia. ‘Our partnership with Deakin University has created the first research hub in Australia to oversee the development of thought leadership for the SME sector,’ says Andrew Conway, Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the IPA-Deakin  University SME Research Partnership. In addition to producing briefings, policy papers and research that is focused specifically on the SME sector, it is also a significant resource delivering strategic advice to peak bodies such as the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), the Treasury, Productivity Commission and the Government. This work strengthens both the IPA’s and Deakin University’s prominence among SMEs, and their accountants, across Australia. Professor George Tanewski, Professor Barry Cooper and Professor Peter Carey are directors of the partnership and contributors to the White Paper.

‘We have come together to provide a new voice, backed by rigorous research, practitioner insights and industry views to formulate the first industry-led Small Business White Paper,’ says Mr Conway.