A jam-packed year of federal politics has been capped off with a cabinet reshuffle, and the small business community is now set to welcome a new minister who has spent the past year focusing on executing the govenrment’s innovation agenda.
Craig Laundy, the federal member for the inner-western Sydney seat of Reid, will take on the expanded portfolio of Small and Family Business, Workplaces and Deregulation.
The larger portfolio gives Laundy direct responsibility for workplace relations, as well as small business and deregulation.
He takes over from Nationals MP Michael McCormack, who will now become the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel and work with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the ANZAC centenary.
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Since July, Laundy has helped oversee startup grants and digital strategies for business in his role as Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. However, the minister’s interest in the business and innovation portfolio goes back much further than one year; since arriving in parliament in 2013, he’s placed small and family business as a top priority for his time in office.
Here are five things you need to know about your new small business minister.
1. A decades-long career as a publican
For two decades prior to entering politics, Laundy worked in his family’s pub business, Laundy Hotels — a business with some 18 venues that now describes itself as operating a hospitality outfit “the old fashioned way”.
“Some of my earliest memories in life include sitting on the bench seat of a Dodge truck whilst driving kegs between hotels on weekends because it saved money,” Laundy said in his first parliamentary speech in 2013.
He credits this early experience with helping him execute his political mission, explaining on his website that his top policy priority is to “support those who back themselves to succeed”.
2. He’s focused on “family” business first
From his very first words on the floor of the House of Representatives, Laundy has championed the idea that families should be recognised as some of the key units driving the small business community forward.
“The role that family business plays in our economy is so important that I believe the Minister for Small Business should be the Minister for Small and Family Business. For so many people, not only in Reid but around Australia, their first job is with their family’s business,” he said in his maiden speech.
The new name of the small business portfolio recognises these family values, with Laundy previously explaining why it is so important that family operations are recognised: they teach Australians to think creatively about business from a very young age.
“It is where the entrepreneurial spirit is born and fostered,” he said in 2013.
3. Red tape is a pet hate
Throughout his time as Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Laundy spoke out about promoting schemes that made it easier for both startups and SMEs to get up and running.
When the government launched its Business Simplification Initiative in 2016, he spoke of the importance of streamlining business application processes so it takes entrepreneurs less time to get their ideas off the ground.
At the time, he reflected that it took 48 different types of forms to set up a cafe in New South Wales, with 18-month wait times before a business could properly launch.
4. He’s connected to the startup world
Laundy’s role as assistant minister in the innovation portfolio has brought him close to the world of startups.
Over the past six months he’s overseen initiatives to support regional incubator programs, grants for medical startups and been involved with $33 million in grants for industry-led development projects through the CRC-P grant program.
5. He wants to use tech to boost jobs, not remove them
In his first parliamentary speech, Laundy said it was important that fighting big social problems did not come at the expense of jobs.
“I believe we are having an impact on the planet and for the sake of our children we must do something about it. However, I believe we should attack the problem and not the economy — reduce emissions, not jobs,” he said.
Reflecting on the ways governments could solve environmental problems, he highlighted the importance of technology and innovatoin.
“I am a believer in innovation, in technology and in enterprise. This is how the world’s problems have always been solved. If we are fair dinkum about reducing emissions, let’s take homes and businesses off the power grid, not pay them to feed back into it,” he said in 2013.