Major small business boost with new competition appointment

Small business will receive a major boost with Professor Michael Schaper set to be announced as the new deputy chair of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.

Small business will receive a major boost with Professor Michael Schaper set to be announced as the new deputy chair of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.

At present there is only one deputy chair position, which is filled by Louise Sylvan, former chief executive of the Australian Consumers’ Association.

However the Trade Practices Act was recently amended to create two deputy chair positions. It is believed that Schaper has accepted that chair and will focus on small business. It is expected that Peter Kell, current chief executive of Choice (formerly the ACA), will replace Sylvan as the other deputy commissioner, focused on consumers.

Currently there are five commissioners under the chair and deputy chair positions. One is small business commissioner John Martin. It is anticipated that he will remain in his current position. One source told SmartCompany: “It is obvious they are beefing up the small business area by creating the position of deputy chair. This is a warning to business.”

It is also a smart move by the Federal Government, which has come under increasing attack by small business after more than $1 billion of cuts from small business programs and a perceived indifference to the affect of rising petrol costs and harsher economic conditions. Some franchisees in particular have been very vocal at the lack of Federal Government support.

The move also signals that the Government wants to take an educational approach to the competition issues vexing small business. Mark Brennan, who is Small Business Commissioner in Victoria, says that Schaper, who is currently the dean of the Business School at Murdoch University in WA, comes very well credentialed and will be very effective. “Michael wouldn’t come across as your hard nose enforcer. He is a very erudite educator. Hopefully it will rub off on the business community.”

Brennan says when he took up the role as Victorian Small Business Commissioner in 2003, he believed in an enforcement approach. “I wouldn’t have thought that if you consulted CEOs of big business about issues it would have helped.” However he says his views have changed. “In many cases it is middle managers being bullies, throwing weight around, and when we inform the CEO they say that’s not us and they are extremely cooperative. But if you concentrate on shaking the fist it automatically gets to be adversarial, which is not helpful.”

Schaper has Labor party connections. He was ministerial adviser to John Dawkins in the Hawke government. He also held the position as small business commissioner for the ACT, but that position was under-funded and then scrapped. Victoria is the only state government to have a position of small business commissioner.

It is also expected that Graeme Samuel will be reappointed as chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, but for a shortened three-year term instead of a five-year term. Schaper would not comment to SmartCompany.

Schaper is a columnist for Read his blogs here.


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