Libs signal new business focus

The new Coalition opposition signalled that it will focus more heavily on rebuilding its support among business owners in announcing its shadow ministry line-up yesterday.

Deputy leader Julie Bishop has taken on employment, business and workplace relations and will have overarching responsibility for the Coalition’s business policy.

“Putting business in as part of employment and workplace relations recognises the significance of the business sector. There will be a number of ministers with whom I will work in promoting business interests and ensuring that the voice of business is heard, particularly given the ominous signs that we are already seeing from the union movement in attacking businesses who are going about their business lawfully,” Bishop said yesterday.

Junior shadow ministers, including small business and tourism spokesman Steven Ciobo, business development and independent contractors spokesman Luke Hartsuyker, and assistant treasurer Michael Keenan, will report primarily to Bishop.

Business groups today welcomed the announcement of the new line-up by Liberal leader Brendan Nelson and said they looked forward to further discussions on the key issues.

NSW Business Chamber spokesman Paul Ritchie says the Opposition should take the opportunity to take a fresh look at its business policies.

“For the most part they are new members of the front bench and the challenge for them in the year or two ahead will be to talk and meet with small business and renew their policy focus on businesses of all sizes. Clearly they don’t want to move away from the economic credentials they built over the last decade, but at the same time going into opposition allows you the freedom to renew your policy focus,” Ritchie says.

But, he says, the Coalition should resist the temptation to engage in opposition purely for its own sake.

“Some of the new Government’s approaches are worthy of support and further development – Craig Emerson’s BAS Easy policy, the one-in, one-out approach in terms of government regulation, policies to make procurement more open to SMEs; they are all good things that should be supported,” Ritchie says.

Council of Small Business of Australia chief executive Tony Steven says any renewed focus on business should be welcome. “Small business is all about building relationships and we will be endeavouring to do that with the new shadow front bench,” he says.


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