Leadership of the industry and small business portfolios is set for a major change after the Labor win on Saturday.
While it is expected that Fran Bailey, who has had the small business portfolio since 2004, will hold her seat, it is unlikely she will continue as Opposition spokeswoman for Small Business.
Insiders say that she is 61 and does not have a great desire to sit in the stalls for the next six years. “This would be a blow as she has extensive knowledge of the sector and is passionate about it. She would be very good holding the Labor Government to account.”
It is also expected that Ian McFarlane, who was minister for industry, will also step down. One Coalition insider told SmartCompany that former treasurer Peter Costello’s comments yesterday about generational change has really struck a chord in the party. “Everyone is now talking about generational change. There will be many more changes.”
Steve Ciobo is one candidate who might step up into the Coalition ranks and take on the role of opposition spokesman for small business. He has been chairman of the back bench committee for small business, and he is also from the Gold Coast and has an interest in tourism, so may take on that role as well.
Craig Emerson, who has a PhD in economics, is expected to be the new Small Business Minister. Emerson has made much of running a small business, pointing out that he understands their concerns because he ran an economic and environmental consulting business before becoming a politician.
But he has big political ambitions and learnt at the knees of some of Labor’s greats, being senior policy adviser to Bob Hawke and Wayne Goss and economic adviser to former finance minister Peter Walsh before being elected to the shadow ministry in 2001.
Emerson is expected to use the portfolio as a stepping stone, although insiders point out that while he has Kevin Rudd’s support, the wider Labor Party does not rate him very highly and may well leave him with small business and tourism.
It is unfortunate that the small business portfolio is still regarded as a junior portfolio when the small and medium business community has high expectations that the role of Small Business Minister should actually become a cabinet position.
Meanwhile competition for leader of the Opposition heats up as Tony Abbott throws his hat in the ring alongside Malcolm Turnbull. And talk is growing of a combined blue blood ticket of Turnbull and corporate lawyer Julie Bishop.
Who would you like to see as Small Business Minister? Email your say to [email protected]