A new department for business development could be established if the Coalition were to win the next election, new Opposition spokesman for business development, independent contractors and consumer affairs Luke Hartsuyker says.
Hartsuyker is one part of an Opposition double-team – the other half is Steven Ciobo – the Coalition has put in place in an attempt to counter new Small Business Minister Craig Emerson.
“There is strong cross-over between myself and Steven Ciobo,” Hartsuyker says. “Clearly his responsibility is at the small business end, but there are a range of initiatives that will apply to all business we’ll be working through, and as our tenure continues.”
He says the new business development portfolio is a recognition of the Coalition’s belief that correct government policy settings can be significant in promoting business innovation.
“I see government as a catalyst to help business create jobs – business has to do the heavy lifting, but we should help, and innovative approaches to assisting businesses will go a way to ensuring that,” Hartsuyker says.
A key focus of Hartsuyker’s responsibility will be to review the network of business grants programs that exist with a view to adapting them to business’s changing needs.
When asked, Hartsuyker was not prepared to name any particular grant program that he believes is in need of reform – he says he is starting with a “blank sheet of paper” – but he expects to flesh out his agenda through consultation with businesses and their representatives.
“Basically I’ll be looking at the current grant and assistance packages that exist and asking questions – how can we do it better, how can they be improved? Business needs are changing rapidly and we need to ensure that programs are keeping up,” Hartsuyker says.
But Hartsuyker says he does see the idea of a department for business development as having some legs.
“The way I’d see it, we would have a business development department, obviously that idea will evolve over time, but I see there are some real opportunities basically through adjustment of policy settings and new initiatives to increase our competitiveness,” he says.
In his capacity as Opposition spokesman for independent contractors, Hartsuyker says he believes he will be watching out for any attempts to rope contractors into conventional employment structures.
“I think the independent contractor legislation we put through in government is about right,” Hartsuyker says. “I’ll be keen to ensure the rights of independent contractors are maintained.”