Appointment of small business commissioner welcome, but business criticises lack of powers

The business community has welcomed the appointment of former Victorian commissioner Mark Brennan as the country’s inaugural small business commissioner, although the Federal Opposition has attacked the role for its lack of power.

Opposition small business spokesman Bruce Billson told SmartCompany this morning that while Brennan is a respected small business advocate, his role won’t be one of consequence.

“He has a strong personal reputation, but it’s just a shame a man of his capacity doesn’t have any tools to do the work required,” he says.

“It just sounds like he’s doing the work the minister should be doing. Surely it’s the minister’s job to elevate the importance of small business and considerations in government.”

In a statement, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it welcomed the appointment, and added it will start working quickly with Brennan to address issues facing small business, including the carbon tax and lack of access to finance.

“There is no doubt current low levels of business and consumer confidence are placing considerable pressure on smaller and middle ranking businesses and this is no time to add to their burden with higher taxes or more red tape,” it said.

The Council of Small Business of Australia was more optimistic about the appointment, with chief executive Peter Strong saying the choice was “excellent”.

However, he agreed with Billson that there should be more power given to the commissioner in order to solve problems in the community.

“We seem to have bipartisan support for the appointment of small business commissioners and the only area of debate is what power and role the commissioners should be given. They all need real power as we do not want them to be hidden away in the bureaucracy but rather to be seen and heard and to cause trepidation among bureaucrats who forget that we are people.”

Yesterday, Brennan told SmartCompany he views the commissioner’s role as being an advocate for small business, with a focus on alternative dispute resolution – his role doesn’t have legislative power to solve disputes.

Billson told SmartCompany this morning that’s a problem – and something the Coalition intends to change if it wins government next year.

“We think it’s an important role for the commissioner to effectively be a complaints concierge, so to speak.”



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