The cabinet reshuffle announced over the weekend following the resignation of Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans means that once again there is a new small business minister.
Chris Bowen is the latest appointment, taking over from Brendan O’Connor who will take Bowen’s immigration position.
The latest musical chairs game comes at a time when the government and the small business community really need continuity in small business with an election looming.
It’s a case of serious déjà vu as Bowen will be the fourth small business minister in 14 months. This is in sharp contrast to the opposition, where Bruce Billson has been serving in the small business role since 2007.
We’ve had Craig Emerson, who moved onwards and upwards from small business to the trade portfolio.
Then there was Nick Sherry, who left the portfolio to spend more time with his children.
Following that was the short-lived Mark Arbib, who was only around for two months before quitting politics and then, most recently, O’Connor, who is being touted as a good friend of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s for taking on the unloved post of immigration.
Now Bowen has the unenviable task of getting up to speed on the myriad of issues that impact on small business as quickly as possible with a September election looming.
He won’t be helped by his lack of business experience, hailing instead from a union background.
Bowen will also have to juggle multiple portfolios, just as O’Connor did, and tertiary education is a large and demanding portfolio to balance with the complex area of small business.
Although admittedly small business and tertiary education is a better fit than the combination O’Connor had to fit in, small business and homelessness.
The constant changes to the position of small business minister can’t help but give the impression that the government is not interested in small business.
It is also going to make it difficult for small businesses to get their views across and have their voices heard before the federal election.
For both the sake of small business and the government we can only hope Bowen gets a handle on the area quickly and starts to come up with some actual policies that will benefit small businesses.
SMEs have already indicated their preference to elect a Coalition government at the next election and the latest reshuffle does not help the Labor government’s case.