Financial planning practices with between five and 20 employees have a difficult decision to make at the upcoming election, with small business owners generally caught between personality and party.

According to research conducted by debtor finance provider Bibby Financial Services, small business owners would love to see that most unlikely of hybrids: a Liberal-National coalition government led by Kevin Rudd.

Those who think the opposition winning the next election will be better for business outnumber those who think it would be worse by a factor of two to one (47 per cent versus 24 per cent). Yet when asked who is the best choice for prime minister, 32 per cent named Kevin Rudd, in contrast to 24 per cent for Tony Abbott and 24 per cent for Malcolm Turnbull.

“Our research indicates that proprietors of Australia’s small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are ambivalent toward government,” said Mark Cleaver, managing director of Bibby Financial Services.

“There are huge pressures on businesses with between five and 20 employees – one of the biggest employer categories in the nation – and the majority think a change in government may help them.

“Whether they are fully informed about the policies of each party is difficult to know, but it is telling that only 7 per cent of those we surveyed could name the federal minister for small business as Gary Gray.”

Next, please

However, the research was quite clear on what small business owners want from the next government: a priority given to reducing taxes (32 per cent) and red tape (22 per cent). Next on their wish list is no increase in the goods and services tax (21 per cent saw this as their highest priority), followed by relaxation of import/export regulations and improved access to credit.

Despite this week’s rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Bibby’s research shows that SME business owners no longer regard lower interest rates as enthusiastically as they did six months ago.

“Our research indicates that interest rate cuts may not be as effective in stimulating the SME sector as rate cuts used to be,” said Cleaver.

Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA), acknowledged Tony Abbott’s commitment to cutting red tape to saving small business people time and money, and Senator Arthur Sinodinos championing the deregulation cause.

Last month the opposition launched a Policy to Boost Productivity and Reduce Regulation paper outlining plans for reducing the regulatory burden on individuals, businesses and community organisations by establishing and meeting a red-and-green-tape-reduction target of at least $1 billion a year.

Senator Mathias Cormann and Sinodinos have repeatedly cited the Future of Financial Advice reforms as an example of intrusive, expensive and burdensome regulation in need of a trim.

“The announcement by Senator Sinodinos that we will no longer be involved in the complicated superannuation payment system will also be an immediate positive hit to productivity,” said Strong. “A small business person will never see the word ‘superannuation’ again unless it is their own or they volunteer to become involved. The savings for the business community and the funds themselves will extend into the billions of dollars each year.”