Federal Small Business Minister Brendan O’Connor has set out his wish list for the Small Business Commissioner to SmartCompany, but CPA Australia has warned independence will be a key issue.
O’Connor says his department will soon begin putting together the process for appointing the commissioner and he expects a wide range of candidates to emerge.
He says he does not have a preference for the person’s background, saying that candidates from academia, regulatory positions and small business would all be eligible.
The most important thing, O’Connor says, is that the successful candidate has a good understanding of issues such as market power, compliance and how governments can create an environment for small business to thrive.
“I want to see a person to fill that role that has an understanding and empathy for small business,” he told SmartCompany.
“They have to understand the pressures of small business. The administrative pressures; the pressures in how small business has to deal with government and large organisations in the market place.”
Gavan Ord, CPA Australia’s small business policy adviser, told SmartCompany independence was key on his wish list for the Small Business Commissioner.
“It needs to be someone who is firmly independent in their mind and their action, someone who understands how the bureaucracy works and who has the respect of the bureaucracy as well as small business,” says Ord.
“You can be fiercely independent, so much so that no one listens to you; you need to be able to influence people. You need to bring people along with you.”
Ord says it is still unclear what role the commissioner will perform as the budget papers talked about the commissioner “advocating”.
“The same position in Victoria is predominantly around dispute resolution. If the role involves advocacy and representation is $1 to $2 million a year in funding sufficient?” asks Ord.
“How many staff will that give you and are those numbers enough for you to fully represent the interests of small business?”
Ord says that, in comparison, the Inspector General of Taxation has $2.2 million in funding and he has four or five staff.
“The other question I have is will the minister have the ability to start their own reviews or will the minister ask them to look at legislation, often in similar roles the minister has to approve the work program,” says Ord.
“Those are questions that are begging to be answered
“Overall it is a good suggestion, but if people are hoping it is the panacea to all small business problems they will be bitterly disappointed.”