Business groups have welcomed Kevin Rudd’s decision to appoint Craig Emerson as Labor’s small business minister, but some have expressed disappointment in the continued absence of a voice for small business in Cabinet.
Council of Small Business of Australia chief executive Tony Steven says he is confident his group will maintain its good working relationship with Emerson.
“We’re very pleased to have Craig Emerson as the minister for small business, we feel he was the right appointment for the job, we already have good relationship with him and look forward to working with him in the future,” Steven says.
But, Steven says, it would have been preferable if the small business portfolio had been made a cabinet position.
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“Small business is a section of the economy with a capitalised value of $4.3 trillion, it employs 3.6 million people in Australia, and it’s the sector that represents the next great opportunity for productivity gains in the Australian economy, so not to be represented at the table where the major decisions are made is untenable,” Steven says.
Lindsay Tanner, a cabinet minister, has given responsibility for business deregulation, with Emerson assisting him, but Steven says this does not compensate for the exclusion of the small business portfolio from cabinet.
Steven says there is plenty of room for reform in the business deregulation aspects of Tanner and Emerson’s portfolios.
“The process of dealing with red-tape across all sections of Government has to be refined and the Government needs to understand that both direct and indirect red-tape – red-tape imposed by large businesses on small business – are problems.”
NSW Business Chamber chief executive Kevin McDonald also welcomes Emerson’s retention of the small business portfolio.
“Dr Emerson’s policy work on government procurement, BAS Easy and in implementing the “one on, one off” red tape policy represents a substantive small business policy agenda. Small Business does have concerns about changes in the unfair dismissal regime and we are looking forward to speaking with Dr Emerson as he works with Ms Gillard in developing the Government’s fair dismissal code,” McDonald says.
There is yet to be any news of who will become the new opposition spokesperson for small business. It appears that previous small business minister Fran Bailey could still be eligible for the job, however, with there now appearing to be a strong likelihood that she will retain her Victorian seat of McEwan.
In the immediate aftermath of the election it appeared the Bailey would lose her seat, but her position has since strengthened. With 84.46% of the vote counted Bailey is just under 500 votes ahead of her Labor opponent Rob Mitchell.
Some commentators are expecting the shadow ministry to be announced by Brendan Nelson, the new Liberal leader, later today.