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Ron Manners, “Government meddling,” The Bulletin, February 2, 1982, p. 17, as a letter to the editor. He’s still brilliantly active at Mannkal.

Recent Press reports have drawn attention to the devastating effect that the current rapacious levels of taxation have on small businesses.

This has brought forth requests from small business lobbies for special treatment for some businesses who happen to be smaller than others.

Superficially, such requests may appear reasonable, but asking for favours from the government, at the expense of all other sectors of the community, will provide no long-term solutions to the central problem, which is excessive taxation.

It may seem justified to ask for exemptions and reduced rates for businesses employing less than 100, etc, but simply re-allocating the burden of excessive taxation is no answer.

The answer is to cut back the government’s size, cost and appetite. My regret is that this central requirement is not raised more often when we were looking for the cause of Australia being an economic under-achiever in respect to our real potential.

Certainly, as we can all appreciate, no government will ever “reduce its size, cost and appetite” voluntarily, so it is up to us all, including small businessmen, to do our best to starve the hand that bites us.

This can be done in several ways. We should:

  • Minimise our contributions to the various Taxation Offices.
  • Stop requesting more government protection against competition and stop asking governments to do that which we should be doing for ourselves.
  • Wherever possible, draw attention to the disastrous effects of our government’s predilection to regulate (throttle) commerce. The current unlimited government involvement in trade and commerce must stand on its own record of achievement.

With the 16,631 Acts of parliament and 2551 regulations passed, mainly directed at private business, it can be shown that the current cost of government regulation of business is now greater than Commonwealth expenditure on education, health or defence.

A survey conducted by the Confederation of Australian Industry shows that, for every dollar that the government spends on regulation of business, the private sector must spend at least $3. In other words, the private sector 13 cents in every dollar of income just to comply with Federal and State regulations.

In my many years of observation of and involvement in small business it has become increasingly clear that those small businesses who comply with every government regulation and financial demand are obsessed with a death wish. For successful survival, they must adopt tactics more applicable to today’s state of emergency.

Every effort must be made to limit government to its correct role of referee (police, defence and law courts) and to keep government out of commerce in much the same fashion as the government should be kept separate from the church. I am not suggesting that there is anything sacred about “business,” but I am suggesting that the law courts should be able to deal equally with transgressors, whether they be businessmen, consumers or politicians.

No amount of government meddling or special interest legislation can take the place of good laws, which make it easier to do right and harder to do wrong.

Many of today’s laws and regulations are unsound in that they are passed to help some sectors of the community at the expense of others.

These laws may win votes, but it still does not make them good laws.

RON MANNERS
Kalgoorlie WA