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How big businesses are causing needless harm to SME cashflow

At a time when small and family businesses face headwinds, it’s not too much to ask that their big business customers play their parts by paying their invoices in a more timely way.

Woeful figures just released by the government regulator reveal only three out of 10 big businesses pay their small business customers within 30 days, while almost a quarter take more than 120 days to pay up.

Big businesses operating in manufacturing, construction and retail trade sectors were among the worst performers.

Small and family businesses have kept their side of the deal by providing goods and services, so big business should do the right thing and pay bills in a timely fashion.

I urge our nation’s big business leaders to get serious and recognise that their small and family business suppliers are vital cogs in what they do and crucial to our economy and communities.


Making small businesses wait four months or more to be paid is nothing more than a crude display of power imbalances.

When big businesses take so long to pay it can cause needless harm and cashflow challenges for small and family businesses.

Cash flow is the oxygen of enterprise and so many small businesses secure their working capital funding by getting mortgages over their homes, so it’s more than just a job, it’s their life.

Our nation’s 2.5 million small businesses account for one third of our GDP, employ two out of every five people with private sector jobs and take on 43 per cent of the apprentices and trainees in training – almost double the number supported by big business.

More than 40 per cent of the assistance cases raised with my office relate to payment times, and it’s pleasing the Australian government has appointed former minister Craig Emerson to review the Payment Times Reporting Scheme introduced by the former government.

Dr Emerson is looking at ways to improve big business payment times, terms and performances for small businesses, and will consider the introduction of mandatory payment times.

Some big businesses are the exception and pay their small suppliers in four or five days, but only 13 per cent of big businesses pay within 20 days.

We just need the broader business community to get the simple message – good business pays.



By Bruce Billson

Bruce Billson is the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

Herald Sun
Tuesday 14th February 2023


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