Whitebox channel welcomes back Howard... grudgingly

After six weeks of frantic campaigning it would seem the Australian people found John Howard's message of low interest rates and economic management more convincing than Mark Latham's campaign for better healthcare and education.

Second only to the mortgage-belt for its concerns regarding interest rate hikes, IT retailers and whitebox resellers who spoke with ARN last week were largely throwing their support behind Howard - albeit grudgingly in some cases.

"My feeling is that there isn't any a difference between the two parties when it comes to supporting small business," managing director of Adler Training and Consulting, John Adler, said. "But on anything to do with the economy and growth most will probably trust a Howard government because it has the track record."

In a similar vein, general manager for Andor Systems, John Smith, was sceptical that either party would come out in support of small business. His main concern however was the costs and hassles associated with compliance.

"Small businesses are better in a free market that just leaves them alone to provide jobs for people," Smith said. "A good government will cut back on the amount of time and money we have to spend on things like Business Activity Statements, and Occupational Health and Safety red tape, or at the very least not give us any more work to do in this area."

Others, such as managing director of Myra Computer Systems in Lismore, Peter Fusarelli, said he was concerned that business in general would suffer under a Labor government because of stricter industrial relations policies, and interest rates.

"It is not all that much better under John Howard, but we think the cost of finance will be more manageable," Fusarelli said. "Both of the parties went into the election promising big spending, but on the Howard side spending has always been offset by cuts elsewhere so it balances out in the end."

And while the election is over, the speculation is not. In the run up to the poll, economists from all sides of politics were warning against a big spending election, and it remains to be seen as to whether the Howard government will actually carry through with its spending promises. What is not in doubt is the full sale of Telstra, which became the returning government's victory cry on election night. A fact which voters might find slightly disturbing as the party largely failed to mention it throughout the actual campaign.

There was however, at least one whitebox reseller who suspected the sale of Telstra would remerge as a key policy initiative of a returning Howard government. Speaking last Friday, CEO of whitebox and IT reseller Knet, Joe Knagge, was under no misapprehension that a returning Howard government would immediately move to sell of the remaining government share of Telstra. A veteran of the political game, Knagge was also standing for the Australian Labor Party in Australia's largest physical electorate Parks.

"This is the big issue, they will move to fully privatise Telstra which will be disastrous for country areas," Knagge said.

With a shop in Dubbo and another in Orange, Knagge is concerned that the full sale of Telstra, and subsequent fall in services, will further stifle IT growth and uptake in the bush.

Dismissing the Howard campaign for its use of 'scare tactics' surrounding interest rates, he suggested the returning Liberal government would see the electorate pay more attention to the relationship between federal government policies and the cost of finance.

"Now maybe people will really watch to see what factors lead to a rise or fall in interest rates, and compare it to worldwide trends," Knagge said. "The coalition has gone against what they say they are in terms of economic managers, they have promised to spend up big, we'll know how that effects the overall economy in about 12 months time."