Meet Australia’s first small business commissioner: He wants SMEs to work smarter not harder

Engel Schmidl /

The Federal Government has named former Victorian small business commissioner Mark Brennan as the country’s inaugural federal Small Business Commissioner, saying his experience in building the first state-based role of this kind will help create a similar role at the national level.

Brennan told SmartCompany in a face-to-face meeting this morning he’ll be bringing a significant amount of experience from his time as the Victorian commissioner – along with a strong emphasis on alternative dispute resolution and advocating for businesses to “lift their game”.

“Every participant in the business community needs to look at the way it conducts business,” he said.

The appointment comes after months of speculation, with the government having announced the role earlier this year. It will be the first role of its kind, as small business commissioners have only existed at the state level until now.

Asked about the upcoming and as-yet undefined role, Brennan said he sees his position as one to “instil the virtues of dispute resolution”.

“I see the role as being an advocate for small business. And not just advocating to government, but to business about what they can do to improve the business environment.”

“If we see small businesses and big business working together, you’ll find the incidence of things like disputes will decrease.”

Brennan became the first commissioner in 2003, and served in the role for seven years. He’s now working on the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.

Federal Small Business Minister Brendan O’Connor said the experience Brennan gained in that role gives him a good framework on which to build an entirely new role at the national level.

Brennan says he doesn’t want to be “too prescriptive” about the role, considering it starts on January 2 and he’s currently finishing up his current position, but he has already set some goals for his first few months in the job.

“One of the key things I’ll be looking at is identifying key stakeholders,” he says. “That will be identifying representatives of small business, and also looking to consult with big business as well.”

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