Essendon players receive sympathy from Storm’s Will Chambers

24 April 2010. Surrounded by all 22 players, Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy reads a statement to the media regarding the future of the club in light of the penalties handed out by the NRL for systematic cheating of the salary cap. Photo: Paul Rovere Melbourne Storm fans like Greg Long and Fiona Murphy did it hard in 2010. Photo: Paul Rovere
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It took a premiership for some Storm fans to get over the pain of the club’s 2010 season. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Melbourne Storm star Will Chambers has offered an insight into how Bomber players might feel if their club is banned from the AFL finals as part of the penalty for Essendon’s controversial supplements program.

Melbourne Storm was forced to play for no points during the 2010 NRL season and was stripped of the 2007 and 2009 titles as punishment for serious salary cap breaches.

“We sort of don’t talk too much about it, but you feel for the Essendon boys … It’s obviously happened here in 2010. And the boys that you talk to who were around the place were here in 2010 say it was the hardest time of their life, “ Chambers told SEN radio Monday morning.

“You play footy every week for September and all of a sudden to have that taken away from you is a very hard thing.”

Chambers said it took another premiership, in 2012, for the Storm players to heal somewhat, but the penalties are still a sore point.

“I know up until last year basically when we won it that was the little thing that the boys got some satisfaction. They had everything taken away from them in 2010 and to get back to where they did last year.

“It’s still a point where no one talks about anything like that at the club because it’s still such a hard point for some of the boys.”

However, Chambers said Storm bounced back strongly from the ignominy of 2010, and the punishments even served as a motivator for some players.

“With the Storm … one thing’s for sure, it was a driving point. Not that anyone ever said anything about it.

“But you could tell that were certain boys in our side that it meant a little bit to, especially when their names were dragged through it all.

“It’s just that little driving point when times do get tough you can get through them.”

Of what the Bombers players will feel, if, as expected, they miss out on playing finals, despite qualifying, Chambers didn’t sugarcoat his response.

“It can’t get any worse. You were meant to play finals this week and all of a sudden it’s taken away from you. It’s pretty tough.”

Storm coach Craig Bellamy said this weekend that if Essendon had to lose points it should take the punishment this season, as Melbourne’s experience in 2010 had been soul destroying.

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Blues ignore lucky loser possibility

Marc Murphy.Carlton says its primary focus this weekend away to Port Adelaide is to strengthen its top-eight credentials, rather than confirm its place as the lucky loser if Essendon is stripped of its finals berth.
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Blues captain Marc Murphy has lamented his team squandering the opportunity to beat two top-eight teams in succession, after it lost to the Bombers last Saturday night following its unexpected victory over Richmond a week earlier.

“We certainly would’ve liked to have followed up a really good performance against Richmond with a good win against Essendon obviously, (being) another top-eight side. Unfortunately we fell short again . . . probably due to our own shortcomings in front of goal,” Murphy said on Monday morning before the team’s training session at its Visy Park headquarters.

Murphy was steadfast in his belief Carlton could not obsess over the expectation that Essendon will be stripped of all premiership points for this season.

The ninth-placed Blues are best placed to progress to the finals if that occurs. They boast the second-best percentage outside the top-eight. Nearest challenger Brisbane, level with them on on 10 wins, faces a daunting trip to Geelong. North Melbourne, in 11th, is a win behind but has a superior percentage, which would come into play if the Blues lose and the Kangaroos beat Collingwood. Twelfth-placed Adelaide is also a win behind Carlton and has an inferior percentage but arguably has the best chance to win of any of the teams just outside the eight, as it will play beleaguered West Coast in Perth.

“In terms of what’s happening at AFL House it’s really out of our control,” Murphy said.

“We can’t really speculate on what’s going to happen this week with Essendon. We just want to put in a good performance against a good side, in Port, as much for ourselves as for our supporters and members.”

First-year skipper Murphy was complimentary of the Power, who have surged up the ladder after finishing 14th last season.

“Port are very good side that have played some very good footy, especially over the past month. They were probably a bit disappointing against Fremantle on the weekend but they’ve played some really good, close games and got over the line,” he said.

“I haven’t watched them too closely but they’ve obviously got some really good young players that have stepped up. (Chad) Wingard (is in that category), and Travis Boak is a really good player. (Kane) Cornes although being an older player has done some really good jobs and also still finds the footy himself (while) he shuts down blokes. There’s been a lot of improvement from a lot of their players. They’re a pretty handy side.”

Murphy nevertheless agreed Carlton would be encouraged by both having beaten Port at home earlier this season and also by having won four of its past five matches against the Power at AAMI Stadium, which will host its last AFL match this weekend.

“It’s a must-win anyway, like Essendon was on the weekend,” he said.

“We’ve played some good footy over there (at AAMI Stadium) recently, we enjoy playing on the big ground over there.”

The captain stressed he was eager to lead by example in the Saturday twilight match, especially so because of his subdued performances this season.

“I’m looking forward to playing a really good one this weekend and getting the boys over the line,” he said.

Murphy confirmed he was likely to undergo post-season knee surgery, in a bid to “get some power back in my legs”.

Carlton expects to be bolstered this weekend by two players who were late withdrawals against the Bombers, Matthew Kreuzer (calf) and Andrew Walker (gastro). Murphy said he expects Brock McLean (quad) to be missing and was unsure of the likely availability of Heath Scotland (quad).

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Benji Marshall face of NIB in NZ

HEALTH insurer NIB hopes Benji Marshall will do as much to boost their brand in New Zealand as Knights legend Paul ‘‘Chief’’ Harragon has in Australia.
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Unveiling its financial results for the year to June 30 yesterday, NIB said the league star – on his way to play rugby union – had been signed on as a brand ambassador for the Land of the Long White Cloud.

NIB chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon said almost 50per cent of Australians had private health insurance, compared with only 30per cent of New Zealanders.

But while most Australians bought their private insurance directly, New Zealand had a US-style market, where most people bought their insurance through their financial advisers or their employers.

‘‘That mean0s there are 70per cent of New Zealanders who don’t have private insurance and we think there is room to grow that market,’’ Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Late last year the company paid $NZ103million ($80million at the time) for New Zealand’s second-biggest health insurer, Tower, which Mr Fitzgibbon said had 14per cent of the market.

He said the Kiwi business was trading under the NIB brand and was already contributing close to 9per cent of the company’s overall profits.

FACE OF NIB: League superstar Benji Marshall

NIB reported a net profit of $67.2million for the year to June 30, down from $67.6million the previous financial year.

Its operating profit of $69.3million compared with $70million the previous year.

Overall insurance premium revenue was up 14per cent to $1.29billion, while underwiting profit was up 4.3per cent to $73.8million.

NIB announced a final dividend of 5¢ a share fully franked, which will take the full-year payout to 10¢ a share, up from 9.25¢ a share in 2012.

The insurer picked up 20,000 new policy holders during the year, giving it a policy total of 472,264 at the end of the year.

Mr Fitzgibbon said that after five years of very strong policy holder growth, things were getting tougher within the health insurance business.

Profit margins were thinning and earnings weakening because premiums had failed to keep pace with rising costs.

‘‘If you’ve got hospital costs going up by 10per cent and dental going up by 12.7per cent and overall health costs are going up by CPI plus 2per cent but you’re not getting those increases in your premiums, then the business gets squeezed,’’ Mr Fitzgibbon said.

The X Factor recap: Adira-belle the first finalists sent home

The X Factor final twelve. THIRD D3GREE perform on The X Factor first live show
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Jiordan performs on The X Factor first live show

Barry performs on The X Factor first live show

Dani flies above the stage on The X Factor first live show

Not enjoying the performance … Adira-belle perform on The X Factor elimination.

Messy … Adira-belle perform on The X Factor elimination.

With almost twenty four hours having passed since Sunday’s live show and radio stations up and down the country speculating that Ellie might be on her way out, an hour of television is assemble around a ten minute process of two songs and a vote.

We quickly, sorry make that pain-stakingly slowly, learn that the public have voted with their ears and the bottom two acts after that feat of anatomic texting were Adira-belle and Barry Southgate, and frankly no one looks too surprised.

To the point, the two then sing one more number each.

Adira-belle – Chain of Fools, Aretha Franklin

Dressed in pink silver and black the girls come out to sing Aretha and again its hard not to feel this is an uninspired song choice.

The performance is really pitchy but the biggest problem is it is really terribly lacking in confidence. Remembering the way they owned the stage in the audition this is a real step down. They seem small and dwarfed by the

Even Nat looks like she’s forcing a smile.

The energy here feels forced and there is no enthusiasm, or dare I say it, joy in this.

At the end the crowd goes mild, and the gauntlet hasn’t been thrown down so much as placed on a shelf in the hope it won’t cause offence.

RATING: 6/10 This would be impressive in a high school auditorium, but the performance and act dwarfed by the occassion tonight.

Barry Southgate – Irreplaceable, Beyonce

Wow, I think Barry actually cares!

What’s more, this is a very clever song choice. Beyonce was bland as a first song from the girl group, but for Barry to do it requires adaptation and he can’t help but put his own mark on it.

He has great tone and pitch and when you combine that with a care factor that rates higher than a yawn, he’s impressive.

As if to prove the point, Barry holds that last note to give it everything his lungs can muster. Clearly that’s the big difference tonight: Barry gave 100%, the girls gave up before they came on stage.

RATING: 8/10 Barry felt like he really was singing for his life and it gave him the passion he’s been lacking.

After Dannii and Nat, of course, vote for each other’s candidates, Redfoo nominates Adira-belle and as Ronan does the same the girls embrace. At which point we get a video that tracks their decline over the show.

Redfoo questions whether the girls have the experience for the show, which seems an odd thing to say about a talent quest with a 14 year old finalist, but Ronan just calls it how it is: “I don’t know, if you get through to next week, if you will survive.”

With that, Adira-belle become the first act to go home, based on their performance tonight and in the Sunday live show which you can relive below.

THE FIRST SUNDAY LIVE SHOW RECAP

Welcome to the live finals shows where there will one day be some singing but first there will be a lot of talking and building of tension.

The first cliche of the night is “take it to the next level” as Luke Jacobz tells us the contestants are indeed planning to elevate themselves and/or “it” this evening, before introducing the judges for those who thought this was a good time to join the show, and pop culture, for the first time.

The judges walk on to the stage and Redfoo is rocking a bedazzled shorts suit. Bring that back!

The theme tonight is “Judges’ Choice”, Luke and an unlikely to ever be used hashtag tell us. This, of course, is the Clayton’s theme as every week is judges’ choice, it’s just tonight there’s no time for frills and no Channel Seven show in need of cross-promotion.

Ronan says the boys are off the chart this year, which is good, unless he means it literally and they won’t be singing anything that would make it onto the charts, in which case that is bad.

Dannii can’t focus on the show, instead she tells us about sending copies of the episodes to her sister, whoever that might be, before Nat reminds us that she’s just had a baby and really the theme tonight is #JudgesFamily.

Nat also thinks it’s unfair that she got the groups and complains about that, which must fill her team with confidence and seems a bit unfair as the groups line up is arguably the strongest ever this year.

Redfoo says the best thing about X Factor has been the contestants and the judges, before some sincerely insincere competitive talk scripted by the producers is delivered with his best effort at a straight face.

And now, the acts.

THIRD D3GREE – That Power, Will.i.am feat. Justin Timberlake

Who are Third D3gree you ask? Well here’s a useful video to tell you it’s the judge-manufactured trio who are teaching each other to bounce. They may have also rehearsed, though from the limited footage we see there’s no evidence of it.

Once they take to the stage, Kelebek is on a motorcycle, Jacinta is silhouetted by big lights and Jordan is trying to be Will.i.am and in doing so proving that the “greatest music producer of our era” also has a unique voice, which, well Jordan doesn’t.

There’s big props, big light effects, big energy and somehow feels like the School Eisteddfod just got a TV budget.

RATING: 5/10 Ultimately, the vocals let this down.

Unsurprisingly, the judges disagree. Dannii says this started with a burn. She says the personalities are the best thing about this group, which is true, though that’s at the expense of the singing. Redfoo loved the energy. Ronan liked Nat’s song selection. And Nat’s screaming. Note no one mentioned their singing.

Barry Southgate – When I Get You Alone, Robin Thicke

Barry lives a “pretty ordinary life at home” so we get a video to prove him right.

In rehearsals, Barry wants to think about being sexy while singing but Dannii wants Barry to think about stalking. This. Should. Be. Interesting.

In performance Barry actually sounds like he’s almost laughing, so girls imagine you’re being stalked by the Riddler. He’s laughing that is until the terribly inventive directors add scantily clad girls to the staging of a Robin Thicke song and it all gets … busy.

Barry’s singing is a big step up from the first song, but this time the personality is a bit weak. He’s outshone by the dancers really.

RATING: 6/10 Good without being great, song was bigger than him

Redfoo laments the loss of Barry’s afro, Ronan says he didn’t think Barry had this song in him and Nat admits she still finds Barry sexy despite no longer being pregnant and then asks what he will do when he gets her alone and Barry says he’ll let her know. Dannii thinks he’s jalapeno hot and Barry’s not sure what to make of that either.

It’s just possible that Barry is the only person who could enter a prime- time talent quest and only feel like an objectified piece of meat once people started talking about his looks.

Jiordan Tolli – Smile, Lily Allen

Jiordan’s back story video tells us she loves macarons and is a mad cat lady in the making but fails to in anyway explain the rogue “i” that has invaded her name.

Redfoo surprised Jiordan with the song selection and a previously promo’d “shock” turns out to consist of Jiordan looking a little surprised before saying ok. OOOOOOH, drama.

Once the song kicks off, it becomes clear that the audio is consistently bad tonight as the mix has Jiordan’s vocals sounding like it’s on the other sound of a barn.

Her performance is good, the designers have spent time creating a real story/video clip motif and Jiordan’s vocals are easily good enough for this. She makes it her own and manages to outshine an impressive stage.

RATING: 8/10 Would have been great to hear this properly

Ronan and Nat love Jiordan’s voice – note this is the first time that quality has been mentioned tonight – and Nat also thinks she has star quality. Dannii says Jiordan was so good she forgot Lily Allen while Redfoo wants to go to the party that he just staged on stage. You’d think he could have got an invite.

Taylor Henderson – I Won’t Let You Go, James Morrison

Taylor tells us he lives in Ceres, where he plays guitar with his dad on the verandah and he has two sisters and a dog. And a ute. In case you were wondering, Taylor will be playing the role of country boy this year.

In rehearsal, Taylor struggles with the first line of the song and both Ronan and Dannii point out that could be an issue. Because they’re professionals so they know things like that.

The song is minimalist, with Taylor starting in a leather chair surrounded by tissues (enough of that in the back) and yes he does warble a bit on the first note, but soon he’s into it and Ronan is all smiles and singing along so he is clearly happy.

Also let down a bit by the sound, Taylor delivers a good rendition of the song without lifting the roof which is largely down to a low-energy song more than the performance.

RATING: 7/10 A bigger song will see him give more hopefully.

Nat and Dannii are impressed, though Nat thought Taylor was lost without his guitar which may be a little true. Redfoo rates Taylor as one of his favourites in the competition, though he likes his boots even more. Ronan demonstrates that he’s shaking like a leaf, and admits that wasn’t the best performance ever but he’s very proud.

Cat Vas – Addicted to Love, Robert Palmer

Video time and we learn that family is as important as singing is to Cat. It seems she has sung to her family forever and they’re always big Greek family “shebangs” so one wonders why she gets nervous in front of crowds.

Which brings us to the dramatic theme of nerves– it must be dramatic because a dark, heavy guitar track is played under the rehearsal footage to demonstrate how dark and heavy things are.

Cat is singing hanging from a silver ring hanging from the ceiling and it takes a while for it to be clear that this is indeed Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love as this is a very different – and good – opening, sung without backing.

Two girls who were overly inspired by a Pink concert continue to writhe on rings above Cat as she sings up the front of the stage. The singing is strong though occasionally pitchy. The personality is excellent though. That serious guitar track was – shock, horror – a red herring as Cat oozed confidence.

Rating: 7/10 Great start and oozing in confidence, didn’t quite land the finish

Redfoo loved it, felt that Cat “sanged it” and gave lots of wows. Ronan was impressed with her pitching the start, loved the arrangement but didn’t love the staging as he though the Pink-ettes were a distraction and Cat wasn’t comfortable dancing. Nat loved that Cat took part in the staging and even her audio is sounding echoey and barn-esque now. Dannii admits there was a lot of discussion about the staging and says this is the real Cat, “a leathery little feline”. Okaaaay. Dannii also staged an intervention in Cat’s home too.

Adira-belle – Run the World (Girls), Beyonce

Adira-belle work in a chicken shop together and apparently do so in lots of makeup and stage costume. Or perhaps that was just the day they were filming. Their boss says they sing all the time and he doesn’t look like that’s driven him insane yet, though might explain how they all got time off to be in the show.

Cyclone fencing and smoke laced with green lasers start us off and the performance is pretty good … I think … because the audio has gotten worse. The bass is distorting all over the place.

As the song goes on and the male dancers arrive, it gets a bit pitchy and the harmonies are a bit out, then the timing fails at the end as well as one Adira-belle can be heard saying “girls” when everyone else has fallen silent.

Rating: 6/10 – A bit early for Beyonce for these girls perhaps as the song was bigger than them

Nat gives them a standing ovation but Dannii and Redfoo are both mixed. Redfoo says the attitude was missing. Ronan loves their look, and thought the song choice was good if obvious. So no one mentioning singing again. Nat explains that she wanted to demonstrate a softer side to the group – which is great, except it means it was a terrible song choice.

Ellie Lovegrove – Songbird, Fleetwood Mac

Video time and Ellie kicks off by explaining her pride in her Aboriginality, showing us lots of shots of her with school kids and singing for babies. Hard not to like Ellie then.

Ellie worries her emotions could run away with her in this song as it means a lot to her.

Minimalist again, with just Ellie on stage in a shiny silver dress and frankly it’s perfect. With a simple piano and strings backing Ellie’s voice is left to do all the heavy lifting and it’s up to the task, at first.

On a few of the sustained notes Ellie wavers, and ultimately what started as a good performance with a few nerves in the mix gets dominated by the nerves.

RATING: 6/10 A lot of strength here and all from her voice, but confidence clearly a problem.

Redfoo makes up for the decent if not great audio by popping his microphone with his screams of joy. Ronan isn’t impressed though as he felt the nerves and the song got away with her, while Nat says it’s the first time she’s noticed Ellie which would be more of a statement had Nat actually been around for many of the auditions or the boot camp! Dannii loves Ellie’s strength. Redfoo says she killed it.

JTR – Everything is Change, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran

We learn quickly that JTR live in Brisbane with their mum, which is a bit confusing given the “we just flew in from Sweden” theme of their audition, and Nat admits she finds them cute but wants them to look at the audience not their hair/guitar/floor.

The song is delivered with the three sitting on stools on an orange-lit stage and it sounds ok until the audio mix drowns them out with guitar.

It’s possible one of the brothers is having a problem hearing himself too as he keeps trying to adjust his in-ear playback. If that is the case it’s impressive that their harmonies are holding up, which they are … mostly.

RATING: 7/10 I wish I could have heard this better

The girls are screaming and Dannii states early on that they sang well, and as we know if the judges even mention singing tonight it’s a good sign. Redfoo says they’re a threat and induces some shrieking in Nat. Ronan is playing honest cop tonight though. He thinks the vocals have to be better than this which gets the first boos of the night from the crowd. However he then says they could make the final based on their package, if they focus on the vocals. Nat admits there were a few shaky moments but is very happy.

Omar Dean – Numb, Usher

We learn that Omar divides his time between his younger brother who is bringing the cute factor, and busking which doubles for time spent alone it would seem.

Ronan has given him a dance song and implies he can’t dance which should lead to a nice surprise now.

He starts nervously, possibly as he is trapped in a cage made of led lights, and has a lot of trouble with holding notes.

There’s a general lack of energy too as this really feels like a rehearsal, with Omar walking through the steps and not shining at all.

RATING 5/10: Omar doesn’t seem to be having any fun and looks very, very nervous.

“Were you nervous?” asks Nat straight off, who says the falsetto was weak which should have been the strength. Ronan asks “really?” and all the other judges nod. Dannii agrees it was too nervous and Redfoo goes as far as to reassure Omar that he does deserve to be here. Ronan says he is proud, knows Omar was nervous and needs him to believe in himself.

Dami Im – One, U2

Wedded bliss is the theme to Dami’s video where she explains that she also loves her husband, as do we all as he is just adorable when he says he’s her number one fan.

Speaking of “One” it’s time for a big producer beat-up as we pretend that Dami not knowing this song is both a sin in itself and likely to harpoon her chances.

Well, Dami not only had to learn the words, she had to learn the music too as she’s playing the piano and she ALSO had to learn to fly as she’s playing on a piano that’s dangling about five metres above the stage with a massive red bow draped on it.

And it would seem that learning the song might be the sort of trick that a few others should pick up.

This is freaking great. Dami goes from strong and solo to blasting her vocals away from the piano with a band backing her. She gets her Aretha on in the last few bars and this has blown the roof.

RATING: 9/10 Learnt and owned the number

Standing ovation from the judges, the crowd and Redfoo’s mind takes a few extra minutes to catch up. “Who are you?!” he exclaims. Ronan said: “I thought I had it in the bag. Everything has changed. You are a superstar.” Nat loves Dami’s silver dress before mentioning “the best vocal of the night”. Dannii gives this a “BOOM!” as she explains they have a trust.

We also get a quick shot of her husband who is giving a great Cheshire Cat smile.

Joelle – Sweet Nothing, Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch

What do we learn from the video? Joelle is all about her friends who are also her sisters who gave her her nephew.

Redfoo promises a soft, powerful, emotional song which “is what she is”. No pressure then.

Joelle starts singing on a yellow-lit stage with one armed draped awkwardly over her own head. Convinced eventually that her one long blonde plait hair piece isn’t falling off, she is joined by a house party of oddly dressed characters on stage. The hashtag tells me it’s a #PaintFight a moment before the people at the party start throwing paint and perhaps they could have waited until we’d seen it?

Oh yes, the singing? Well, it’s overawed by the party and the paint and the dance groove. It’s fine but not the star of the piece, and the same must be said of Joelle.

RATING: 7/10 Nothing wrong but not that strong

Ronan and Nat loved it, though Nat loved it for being like a video clip not, for say, singing well. Dannii also talks about the production before picking a fight with Joelle because she dares to be nervous. Redfoo saves the situation, or tries to, by saying that he loves that Joelle is sassy.

Jai Waetford – Fix You, Coldplay

“A month ago our next performer was a 14-year-old boy from Western Sydney,” says Luke.

Errr, what is he now? I respond.

In his bio video we learn that Jai goes to school (that’s a relief) and has a pet lizard which he’s only lost once (also a relief).

And so to the song, which Ronan and Nat try to build up as bigger than Jai (which really, we all are).

While he’s singing alone on stage, with a simple accompaniment, it’s great. His voice is right for the song, if very young. He has amazing presence too, and genuinely conveys the lyrics.

When the fireworks kick off though, and backing vocals kick in, it gets a bit pitchy for a moment yet also gives the game away that the producers know they’re on to a winner with this kid as the girls in the audience start screaming.

RATING: 7/10 The song was about him being a star not a singer, it was perfectly ok. More to come.

“In the last two or three months life has got more interesting,” admits Jai as the feedback session just becomes a session about his star quality, not his singing. Redfoo and Nat think it was perfect and hate Ronan for having him. Ronan thinks Jai is an international superstar.

Which he was going to say if Jai croaked like a frog tonight.

BOTTOM THREE GUESS?

Nat could be in trouble. Third D3gree and Adira-belle must be candidates, alongside Omar, while Ellie and Joelle seem far from safe.

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Business growth – on the political SMB agenda?

It’s no secret that, in the lead up to the election, both sides of politics are offering small business owners a range of sweeteners in the hope of securing their votes. From promises to delay increases to super contributions. to offers of immediate tax write-offs for new equipment purchases, the small business sector is suddenly awash with political proposals.
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But with six different small business ministers in as many years (four in the last 19 months), what we really need is consistent and committed support from the Federal government for small businesses.

Without stable government, we’re seeing small businesses struggling to perform in an increasingly competitive local market; failing to expand both here and overseas. We recently commissioned a national study of 441 executive managers and business owners of Australian companies – asking for their thoughts on how they have been performing, and how they hope to grow. As well as discovering half (51 per cent) of companies experienced no revenue growth in the 2012/2013 financial year, we found close to two thirds (62 per cent) were dissatisfied with the level of support provided by the current Federal government.

Despite this perceived lack of support, the SMB sector is forging ahead with its own plans for success, with 60 per cent expecting revenue growth this financial year.

Investing in technology

What’s interesting is the increasing importance of technology to help businesses expand. Instead of increasing their people power, more SMB owners are planning to focus on technology to help their companies grow – from new websites and social media strategies to cloud services and mobile devices. This is where I think Labor has the right idea, with its small business write-off for new equipment purchases up to $6,500. This rings true to the sentiment that greater efficiency comes down to finding smarter ways to run your business, not just reducing overheads and cutting costs.

As a first step, SMBs need to look at how technology can help them expand their business nationally. For example, if you live in Sydney it might take you an hour to get to work if based in the city. Thinking a bit laterally, you can see that while there are five million people in Sydney, the 4.5 million people living in Melbourne also offers a great target market – especially as it is only an hour away by plane. While you might not have the finances to have people on the ground just yet, offices no longer have to provide a physical presence – they can now take the form of a website, or an intranet, a virtual address or even just a telephone number.

However, the real test for the Federal government formed post-September 7 will be whether it can help SMBs take advantage of their investments in technology to service larger export markets, such as those in Asia. I sit on the National Standing Committee for Cloud Computing and one of the reasons I do is that I think cloud technology is a great way to help small Australian businesses get access to overseas marketplaces, which has historically been a challenge for Australians, given our geographical isolation.

Cloud technology breaks down geographic barriers and the associated costs. We use our own cloud services at Servcorp because they offer a level of consistency across different markets, which would be difficult to secure by other means. Our clients have access to a single phone system that runs across 22 countries, and they can bill their own clients, in their own market, in their own currency, using a single, cloud based billing service.

For businesses looking to get the maximum benefit come September, they need to be looking at which party can move them out of their Aussie-centric mindset, into the populations to our north that offer huge marketplace opportunities. I firmly believe that in a restructured Australian economy, there needs to be a renewed focus placed on small businesses exporting to Asia.

No matter whether the Coalition or Labor win the election, initiatives to support the growth and expansion of Australia’s millions of SMBs needs to be placed front and centre on the agenda.

Marcus Moufarrige is the chief operating officer of Servcorp

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