Small business disappointed, as new Treasury Advisory Council lacks SME representation

The small business community has once again been snubbed, as a new government advisory council has been formed without the representation of SMEs.

Yesterday a new seven-member Australian Treasury Advisory Council was announced with members largely from big business and the academic organisations.

The members of the new council include QBE chairman Belinda Hutchinson, Macquarie Group chairman Kevin McCann, New Zealand Treasury secretary Gabriel Makhlouf, former dean of the University of Western Australia Business School, Tracy Horton, financial service consultant Akiko Jackson and former public servant Michael Vertigan.

The announcement came yesterday, as Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson said in a speech to the Institute of Public Administration the government was expected to engage differently with business.

“There are expectations on us to engage differently with business and the broader community – to better understand and incorporate their perspectives into our policy analysis and development,” he says.

Parkinson says the Treasury specifically needs to respond to this expectation, but is expected to “do more with less”.

In response to the announcement, Council of Small Business of Australia executive director Peter Strong told SmartCompany he could have nominated five people, some external to COSBOA, who would have “added value and been professional” on the council.

“You need to have academics on there, they have knowledge of things we don’t, but you need to have a proper mix of people,” he says.

“You need to have academics and big business representatives, but to have a diversity of experience and opinions there’s one voice missing, small business.”

 Strong says small business representatives are vital on the council to ensure there are “no unintended consequences”.

“When you don’t have people who understand the nitty gritty of small business, you end up with unintended consequences,” he says.

“It doesn’t need to be a COSBOA member, just someone who understands small business and has experience with small business on a day to day basis… it could have been someone from the Finance Brokers Association of Australia who deals with small business loans.”

SmartCompany asked on social media if this was an important issue to the community, to which respondent Bill Tyrrell said it was, because “small business is the backbone of the economy”.

In December last year SMEs were also snubbed from the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, with chief executive of the Restaurant and Catering Association of Australia, John Hart, the only small business voice.

SmartCompany contacted Treasury, but received no comment prior to publication.

But it seems the situation is unlikely to change anytime soon, as Parkinson said in his speech yesterday any attempt by Treasury to “think differently” was being hampered by a lack of resources and public sector job cuts.

“In the past, our response to increased demands was to increase our efforts: by working harder and longer. Needless to say, this is not sustainable, and it also crowds out any attempts to think differently – and smarter – about prioritising our resources,” he says.

Treasury is currently losing about one in every three jobs and has already shed around 15% of its workforce.


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