Australia’s small business business minister, Nationals MP Michael McCormack, was sworn into his new job at a ceremony in Canberra this morning.
McCormack is Australia’s ninth small business minister in just under nine years.
He replaces former small business minister Kelly O’Dwyer, who held the position for around 10 months.
In a statement, McCormack said he is honoured to take on the role of small business minister.
“I am very excited to take on this role and cannot wait to meet with as many small businesses as I can, right across Australia, to hear of their successes and work with them in growing the sector into the future,” McCormack said.
McCormack steps into the role as Australia’s first small business minister who is a member of the Nationals.
Previously, only Liberal and Labor party members have held the position since it was made a separate portfolio in the late 1980s.
It is a big win for the country party, given the party’s views on competition policy, particularly the introduction of an effects test, which have in the past been at odds with some in the Liberal party.
Here’s four things you need to know about Australia’s new small business minister.
1. He grew up on a farm
McCormack grew up on his family’s farm just north of Wagga Wagga, and has lived in the Riverina in regional New South Wales all his life.
He has been the local federal MP since 2010, after facing off against both Liberal and Labor challengers.
McCormack was returned comfortably at the recent election, winning well over 60% of the two-party preferred vote in his electorate.
2. He became the editor of his local newspaper at the age of 27
McCormack started as a cadet journalist at Wagga Wagga newspaper The Daily Advertiser in 1981, where he covered a wide variety of issues including local government and sport.
In 1991, at the age of 27, he was appointed editor of the same newspaper. He was the youngest newspaper editor in Australia at that time, according to the NSW Nationals’ website.
3. He has run his own small business
McCormack owned and operated his own small business in the regional city of Wagga Wagga for around eight years before entering parliament.
The business was a media and publishing company.
McCormack says his time in small business has helped him understand the daily challenges small business operators face.
4. His appointment has been welcomed, but business groups are concerned about the small business portfolio being shafted to the outer ministry
Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia, said in a statement the small business sector employs 5 million people and as a portfolio is too important to not have a seat at the cabinet table.
“Mr McCormack has the confidence of the sector, however we are disappointed the portfolio has moved from cabinet and we will be seeking answers to why this has happened,” Strong said.
“In our opinion, this is a step backwards for small business.”
Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said in a statement McCormack will be a “strong advocate” for the sector, particularly businesses in rural and regional areas.
“While the portfolio has been moved to the outer ministry, I have every confidence all ministers sitting around the cabinet table will have small business at the forefront of their minds,” Carnell said.
Carnell also said while neither the Coalition or Labor have a majority in the Senate, the 45th Parliament is still set to be a productive one for Australian small businesses.
“Certainly, the views held by the crossbench are quite diverse, but the one thing that they do all have in common is their support for small business operators,” Carnell said.
“Their small business policies are really strong and very positive, so there’s fertile ground there for the Government to work with the opposition, along with the minor parties and independents.”