Opposing Labor’s plan to remove the unfair dismissal exemption for SMEs will be the first priority for new Opposition small business spokesman Steven Ciobo.
Ciobo says any attempt by Labor to cut down the 100 employee threshold for exemption from unfair dismissal laws will receive his “absolute and confirmed opposition”.
“Right up front I believe the single most important issue for the small business sector in the near term is Labor’s IR policy. There can be no mistaking that if Labor gets it wrong on this they are going to create a heavy burden on small business and we’ll see the impact of that on the profits of small business and in terms of employment levels as well,” Ciobo says.
In the short term, Ciobo will focus on scrutinising Labor’s policies rather than driving a strong positive Coalition agenda, a position he says reflects the realities of opposition.
Ensuring Labor keeps some of the previous government’s small business measures, such as small business field officers and the small business online portal, will also be a priority, he says.
But Ciobo is non-committal on one initiative promoted by former small business minister Fran Bailey; the need for amendments to the unconscionable conduct provisions of the Trade Practices Act to prevent franchisees being bullied by big business.
“Fran did a good job as minister – my perspective now is we’re in a new environment and not setting the agenda. I’m required to respond to Labor’s initiatives, so with respect to a range of measures that could affect franchisees, I will be watching very closely,” he says.
Ciobo says he is a good fit for the small business portfolio, with a family background in small financial planning, tourism and accommodation businesses and a wife who previously part-owned and ran a small public relations consultancy.
Before entering Parliament in 2001, the 33-year-old Ciobo worked as a trade practices lawyer and consultant for Coopers & Lybrand and PricewaterhouseCoopers in Sydney.
Tony White, the president of the Gold Coast North Chamber of Commerce in Ciobo’s electorate, says he believes Ciobo will be well suited to the portfolio.
“I think he’ll go quite well; he’s very nice and active in the community and with business,” White says. “He does have a business background, but that matters less than the effort you put in, and I think he’s put in a lot of effort for Gold Coast business.”