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More Than Symbolic: The Commonwealth Needs to Empower its Small Business Commissioner to be Effective

Media Release
Peter Whish-Wilson 19 Apr 2013

The Australian Greens along with Senator Xenophon have issued a dissenting report into whether to legislate the role of the new Commonwealth Small Business Commissioner following a Senate inquiry into the Greens Small Business Commissioner Bill 2013.

Australian Greens spokesperson for small business, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson stated small business is an important part of the Australian economy making a substantial contribution through employing almost 5 million people.

“It is disappointing that despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the submissions to the inquiry said a legislated office was the best way forward, the Government and opposition members of the committee both agreed to recommend to the Senate not to pass the bill.

“The blocking of this bill certainly looks cynical and appears to be politically driven.

“The important contribution of small businesses is exactly why we believe it is important for these businesses to have a statutory office holder and agency to represent and advocate for them. 

“As outlined in the Committee report, statutory small business commissioners currently operate in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia. NSW is currently considering legislation to back up their small business commissioner.

“Merely appointing a Federal Commissioner is not sufficient for the appropriate representation of small business, and it is easy to see why many view this role as purely political or symbolic.

 “Additional credibility would be brought to an office that has the ability to bring people to the table to discuss and resolve issues.

“Statutory powers are essential to ensure the commissioner can represent and advocate appropriately.

“This is especially necessary where there may be a perceived power imbalance between a small and large business.

“A Small Business Commissioner that is equipped with appropriate powers also has the ability to save small businesses from the high costs associated with formal legal proceedings. 

“The Greens are standing up for small businesses and the hardworking people who run them. The major parties should reconsider their position when the bill is introduced into the Senate.

Submissions to the inquiry can be viewed here http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=economics_ctte/small_business_comm_bill_2013/submissions.htm

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