Bowen bows out before he’s boned as the “revolving door” of small business ministers continues

Labor MP Chris Bowen has resigned from cabinet and his position as small business minister this morning in the wake of yesterday’s failed leadership spill.

He was the fifth small business minister in 15 months and had only been in the role since February.

Bowen, a supporter of Kevin Rudd, told a press conference he backed Kevin Rudd yesterday and so had now made the decision to resign.

“On that difficult day I took the decision that the best thing for the Labor Party, and for Australia, would be for Kevin Rudd to return to the prime ministership,” he said.

“I’ve held that view for some time.”

Bowen said after discussions with his wife and friends he “decided to resign” from cabinet and he had told Prime Minister Julia Gillard of his decision this morning.

“This is what I regard as the appropriate and honourable decision for me, and I completely respect the decision that other ministers may reach,” he said.

Bowen said he would recontest his western Sydney seat of McMahon at the September 14 election and would fight “vigorously” to keep his seat.

“I intend to win it,” he said.

Council of Small Businesses of Australia executive director Peter Strong told SmartCompany the resignation was “appalling”.

“The 2.5 million people in small business deserve better, they employ five million other people and we can’t keep a small business minister for more than five minutes,” he says.

“If you don’t get continuity in that job, you don’t get continuity in policy. The highest concern small business people have is a lack of confidence in the future. You can’t write a business plan if you are unsure of the future.”

Bruce Billson, shadow minister for small business, says for a sector that employs half the private sector workforce it is “outrageous” that there will now be yet another small business minister.

“Five small business ministers in 15 months is a revolving door that adds insult to the economic injury the government has inflicted on small business,” he says.

“The only small business that is benefiting from this government is hopefully the small business printing firm that is doing the business cards and the letterhead. It is just extraordinary.”

Billson says what was noticeable about Bowen’s press conference was that when he listed his ministerial achievements he did not mention small business at all.

Billson says he has “no idea” who Bowen’s successor will be as the government’s sixth small business minister.

“It will probably be yet another bolt-on to some other role, an afterthought that does not display the genuine commitment that the small business community deserves.”

Gavan Ord, business policy advisor at CPA Australia, told SmartCompany five small business ministers in 15 months is “hardly conducive” to good policy development and implementation.

“CPA Australia wants to see a long-term vision for small business and the nation and a coherent policy framework to achieve that vision,” he says.

“That is very difficult to achieve when there have been so many small business ministers in such a short period of time.”
Ord says he feels for the public servants that have to prepare briefs for new ministers on a regular basis.

“It’s like starting at ground zero again and again. It disrupts policy development and impacts implementation,” he says.

“The regular changing of small business ministers is not a sky falling in moment. Small business keeps on doing what they need to do. However, it hasn’t helped the sector either.”



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