Small business is drowning in a $76 billion sea of unpaid customer bills and invoices, crippling their ability to grow.
Research by financier The Invoice Market shows businesses are perpetually owed on average $38,000, with corporate customer excuses raging from 'lost in the system' and 'in dispute' to 'being reviewed internally' and 'being processed offshore'.
Cash flow is so dire, more than a third of Australia's two million small and medium sized enterprises are having to dip into their personal savings to manage the day-to-day running of the business.
This is creating a disincentive to hire new staff and makes it harder to pay existing workers.
Contrary to popular belief, it is small businesses themselves which are the tardiest in paying their bills to other SME's rather than big businesses and multinationals treating their smaller counterparts poorly.
"Some businesses are having to ask for payment up to five times over several months, indicating that a new culture of 'corporate selfishness' has developed across Australia," The Invoice Market boss Angus Sedgwick said on Monday.
If the problem can be fixed, he estimates half a million jobs could be created.