Despite being praised as the most successful ever small business minister, Bruce Billson is at risk of losing his seat, according to political polling conducted over the weekend.
Up to 36 Coalition MPs would have lost their seats if an election was held on Saturday, according to the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll.
Apart from the small business minister, other MPs at risk of losing their seats include Queenslanders Wyatt Roy and Warren Entsch as well as Geelong’s Sarah Henderson.
The government has taken a hit in the political polls in the wake of the Bronwyn Bishop travel expenses saga and the debate over same-sex marriage.
Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business Australia, told SmartCompany if Billson lost his seat it would be a very big blow to small business.
However, Strong says it is important to note that Billson has always held what has been considered a marginal seat.
“Some people thought when the 2007 election came along he wouldn’t win that,” Strong says.
“Obviously we think very highly of him and he works his electorate very well. He’s always been in a marginal seat and he’s aware of that, but John Howard got voted out and Bruce Billson didn’t. His electorate respects him and it would be a disaster for small business if Bruce wasn’t in parliament.”
Strong says having a small business minister in cabinet has been very beneficial for the SME community.
“He [Billson] obviously believes that small businesses are the key to the Australian economy and he can articulate that in the party room and the cabinet room,” he says.
“No one else has been able to do that successfully.”
Under the Rudd and Gillard governments there were six different small business ministers.
Strong says this is why Labor needs to come out and say who will likely take on the small business portfolio should it win government.
At the moment, opposition leader Bill Shorten is Labor’s spokesperson for small business – however it is unlikely that he will continue with that portfolio should he become prime minister in 2016.
“We need to have someone we know is going to go to the next election so we can establish that relationship and have that understanding,” Strong says.
“You’ve got to have someone in cabinet that’s dedicated to small business.”
A spokesperson for Billson says the Small Business Minister is not worried by the polling.
“Bruce Billson is focussed on doing the very best job representing the needs of Dunkley as he has for almost twenty years, rather than being focused on polls,” the spokesperson says. “Readers who know Bruce, know that he lives by the saying ‘Positive, Passionate, Persistent’. He will continue to do so.”