The shadow minister for small business, Bruce Billson, has once again attacked the federal government’s handling of the small business portfolio – saying the industry cannot afford a seventh minister in just six years.
Billson made the remarks at the NAB Small Business Summit in Brisbane yesterday, just minutes before Opposition Leader Tony Abbott took to the stage, where he announced a new plan to increase small business experience in government agencies.
Billson – who opened the speech with a reminder about his small business experience – also repeated his call for a major review of the country’s competition law, and how it affects small business.
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“You can’t have a revolving door and expect policies to be distilled and understood, and presented into something practical,” Billson said.
“One of the ministers didn’t even get to meet the advocacy groups before being replaced.”
Billson’s comments reflect the complaints of the small business community over the number of small business ministers appointed under the current Labor government.
“I respect and admire Gary Gray, but when he was appointed as the sixth small business minister, the headlines were ‘at last, a mining executive to look after the resources sector’.
“He brings great quality to that role, but nowhere was it written about the weathering of small business in our streets.
“That story was not written because it couldn’t be, and it wasn’t written for any of his predecessors either.”
Billson also criticised the appointment of the Small Business Commissioner, calling the role “a commissioner without a commission”, and repeated the Coalition’s pledge to have small businesses removed as the paymasters for the Paid Parental Leave scheme.
“Treasury is the economic powerhouse of the country, and that’s where small businesses should be,” he said. “They should be thinking everyday about the impact of small business.”
Billson also raised the need for a major review of competition laws, saying a Coalition government would introduce such a review.
“But you see power bases using muscle to bully supply chains,” he says. “It requires so much to prove an offence.
“Mandatory codes are great as expressions of best endeavours, but surely there needs to be teeth.”
Billson asked the audience of business owners and regulators to “join me in what is desperately needed – a proper valuing of small business”.