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Labor announces establishment of Small Business Commissioner

The Gillard Government has announced the establishment of a Federal Small Business Commissioner, which it says will act as an advocate for and provide information to Australia’s 2.7 million small businesses.

"The small business sector has been calling for better advocacy, advice and information at the federal level and the Government has listened," Prime Minster Julia Gillard said this morning.

She says the commissioner will provide small business with a new voice to Government, provide a 'one stop shop' for services and information, and ensure the interests of small business remain at "the forefront of Government policy making."

The commissioner has not yet been appointed, although the office will be established in 2013.

The announcement follows the establishment of state small business commissioners in South Australia and Western Australia, in addition to existing commissioners in Victoria and New South Wales.

Small business played a prominent role in the recent battle for the Labor leadership, with Gillard appointing her political friend Brendan O’Connor to the role of Small Business Minister and into Cabinet. O’Connor is Labor’s fourth small business minister since 2007.

Gillard said the commissioner would work with O’Connor to “ensure government agencies take into account the needs of small businesses, including ways in which we can manage the regulatory burden on small business.”

Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of the Small Business of Australia, says a minister in Cabinet and a small business commissioner gives the sector its best-ever profile and architecture.

"It doesn't mean success, but we're on the road to it," he says.

Questioned on the likely appointee, Strong said it would need to be a person with a “real understanding and experience” of the sector.

At this stage, it’s likely the appointee would come from an industry association, COSBOA, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or the Productivity Commission. A very early candidate for the job is ACCC deputy commissioner Michael Schaper.

Responding to the news, Shadow Small Business Minister Bruce Billson accused Labor of lifting the Coalition's small business policies and said Labor was “desperate to make a ‘totemic announcement’ to try and show it has some interest in small business but can come up with no ideas of its own.”

The announcement also follows news that small businesses with revenue of under $2 million will receive a one percentage point cut in the company tax rate from July this year. 

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