Independent Contractors back SA small business commissioner bill

The Independent Contractors Association has come out in support of the new South Australian Small Business Commissioner’s bill, saying it makes sense for businesses to contact a state authority rather than a Federal one.

But the announcement comes after the Franchise Council and various industry experts attacked the state’s legislation, saying it was a non-transparent attempt at trying to change the state’s Franchising Code of Conduct without proper legislation.

Contractors’ Association head Ken Phillips says the association’s support is more for the establishment of a small business commissioner to resolve disputes.

“We’re confused on the small business commissioner model. What they do with the franchising issue, we think is best handled within the context of the small business commissioner.”

“The idea of bringing in various industry arrangements under the small business commissioner makes sense,” he says.

The issue of state-specific franchising legislation has been on then cards for some time. While the idea was introduced in Western Australia, a subsequent report shot down the idea. However, it continues to gain traction in South Australia.

Franchising experts are concerned that the small business commissioner legislation will have the power to amend certain codes of conduct, including the code for the franchising industry. While SA MP Tony Piccolo, the champion of the franchising legislation, says this isn’t franchising-specific, the Franchise Council says it is merely legislation via stealth.

Phillips says there is no reason why franchisees should be opposed to the new legislation as it will give the small business commissioner power to resolve disputes in mediation.

“What’s not happening is that this is not becoming an arbitration service,” Phillips says. “So on that basis, what conceivable objection could they have to this?”

“If the small business commissioner was given powers to extend to arbitration, then I think I would agree. But I think what we’re looking at here is a nice appropriate balance that gives the commissioner that extra bit of grunt without turning him or her into an arbitrator.”

The opposition to the small business commissioner’s bill is based in the principle that existing franchising codes of conduct are sufficient. The FCA also points to Western Australia, where the idea for similar legislation was shut down.

“It makes sense that small businesses can go to a local state representative rather than straight to the Federal level.”

“I know the FCA is very vocal saying they would good dispute resolution, and they are committed to that and make great comments. But I would have thought they would have welcomed an enhancement of the small business commissioner model, given that this is a good thing for businesses.”

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