Brendan O’Connor has been named Australia’s new Small Business Minister, with Julia Gillard heeding business calls by making it a Cabinet position.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed O’Connor, the member for Gorton in Melbourne’s west, has moved into Cabinet to take the position of Minister for Small Business, as well as Minister for Housing and Homelessness.
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“Small businesses are central to Australia’s economy and deserve cabinet-level representation,” Gillard said in statement.
O’Connor replaces Mark Arbib, who held the title for just two months.
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, says he is pleased the small business sector now has a voice at the “highest level of decision-making in Australia”.
“There have been times when a minister carries the role of small business with him or her, but it has never been the highest priority of their job as other portfolios, such as industrial relations or training, take a higher priority. So we welcome Brendan O’Connor to the role and hope to meet with him soon,” he says.
“Now we have a voice in Cabinet and there is a better chance that our needs will be heard and we will be allowed to concentrate on our families and our business instead of being forced to concentrate on other people’s business.”
O’Connor was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2001 as the Member for Burke. At the 2004 Federal election, he was elected to the newly created electorate of Gorton.
In December 2006, O’Connor was appointed Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Industrial Relations.
He is the chair of the Federal Labor Parliamentary Industrial Relations Taskforce, which reported on the Labor Party’s assessment of the impact of WorkChoices on Australian workers.
In 2007, upon the election of the Rudd government, O’Connor was appointed Minister for Employment Participation. In 2009, he was appointed Minister for Home Affairs.
Prior to entering parliament, O’Connor was a union official from 1986 to 2001, most recently assistant national secretary of the Australian Services Union from 1993 to 2001.
The news comes after Greens leader Bob Brown said the Prime Minister should have the Small Business Minister in Cabinet.
“The resources boom is impacting so much on small business and the powerhouse for jobs that it is. The mining minister’s [in] Cabinet – so should the minister for small business be,” he said today.
Brown said the position would be a counter-balance to the “coal-driven enthusiasm of Mr [Martin] Ferguson”.