BY JOHN MOYLE
Driven by mistrust of governments and rising anxiety, voters are increasingly giving support to minority parties around the globe.
This trend has also played out in Australian politics since the early 2000s, with voter support for minority parties rising to around 20 per cent in the cities and 30 per cent in outer metropolitan and regional areas.
In NSW, around nine per cent of voters have indicated that they will vote for an independent party that is not Greens or One Nation.
Figures such as these are spurring Angela Vithoulkas on as she fields her fledgling Small Business Party in the coming NSW state elections.
The Small Business Party is placed above the line in Group R in the Upper House ballot, and while the party has not issued any preferences, it does not expect to receive any as they aim to keep all the bastards honest.
“It’s brought home to me just how out of touch the mainstream political parties are with their local voters,” Angela Vithoulkas, founder, Small Business Party said.
“They stand there issuing motherhood statements and they aren’t addressing the issues that are affecting the locals who are crying out for a plain English conversation.”
Having grown up in a small business environment, Angela left school early to start her own small business before successfully running twice as a City of Sydney Councillor where she has been a strong advocate for residents and businesses since.
“Everyone said I couldn’t do it the first time, and then they said I couldn’t do it a second time,” Angela Vithoulkas said.
36% of small business located in regions
Operating her Vivo Cafe in George Street while under the threat of the light rail, Angela first unfurled her Small Business Party in the now infamous 2018 Wentworth by-election.
Her self-funded campaign made inroads in the crowded field that eventually saw the once safe Liberal seat fall to Kerryn Phelps, also an Independent.
“If anybody had been paying attention to the Wentworth by-election and the votes I got, and had the Liberal Party been more astute and asked for my preferences, that could have changed the outcome of that bi-election,” Angela Vithoulkas said.
It is surprising that no party has lobbied this economic and social sector before when considering its importance and depth.
Across the state there are over 730,000 small businesses comprising single traders to low number employers employing almost 50 per cent of the total NSW workforce.
Over 36 per cent of all small businesses are located in regional NSW and 32 per cent of all operators were born overseas.
Construction, professional services, rental hiring and real estate make up the majority of small businesses by percentage, with professional service being another important sector.
“For the Small Business Party it is about the journey and for every small business owner to know that we finally have representation geared for them,” Angela Vithoulkas said.
“We are trying to target all the different areas of small business that are fed up with their compliance burden and fed up with the lack of progress with small business advocacy.”
Across NSW, small businesses on average spend 14 hours a week dealing with compliance issues, with this equating to $58K a year in unpaid wages.
“Red tape is made up of compliance burdens that successive governments go out of their way to install,” Angela Vithouklas said.
“Big business can cope with compliance because they can afford to pay specialists to deal with it.”
Ms Vithoulkas added that red tape is also hampering small business start-ups as it can take up to 18 months of state and local government paperwork before they can begin operations.
“We also don’t believe that there should be 6,000 pages of compliance being introduced by government each year.”
Disgust with mainstream parties
While high energy prices and the environment are also high on the Small Business Party’s agenda, it is free Out of Hours School Care, or OOHSC, that Vithoulkas sees as being a major policy.
“Women are spending up to $300 a week on OOHSC and it is hard for anyone to run a small business 9 to 5 when school hours are 8 to 3,” Ms Vithoulkas said.
From crowded headquarters in Sydney’s CBD, the party, with a small group of paid staff and volunteers, is fielding lower house candidates Ciaran O’Brien in Coogee, Fiona Douskou for Sydney, Aaron Le Saux for Newtown and Glen Fredericks in Newcastle, while Ms Vithoulkas is contesting the Upper House.
“We have done a lot of travelling across NSW, campaigning in places such as Wagga Wagga, Newcastle, Kiama and Bringelly,” she said.
With the electorates’ growing disgust with mainstream parties dictating and not listening, this is one small party that could make a difference.