Small Business Minister role opens up – again

Labor Senator Mark Arbib has stepped down from his role as Small Business Minister, much to the exasperation of the small business sector, which will now have to deal with its fourth federal representative in five years.


Arbib, who was also serving as Assistant Treasurer and Sports Minister, announced his resignation from Parliament yesterday, just hours after the results of the Labor leadership spill


Following a ministry reshuffle, Arbib was appointed Small Business Minister in December, following Nick Sherry’s decision to step down from the role and not contest the next election.


Arbib said he hoped his departure would help the Labor Party “rebuild after the ballot and heal… some of the turmoil over the past week”, as he also voiced his desire to spend more time with his family.


It’s not yet known who will replace Arbib in the Senate or as Small Business Minister, but it will be Labor’s fourth small business minister since winning office in 2007.


In his first interview as Small Business Minister, Arbib told SmartCompany last month he would “knock down doors to make [things] happen”.


He nominated rents, payroll tax and reducing red tape as key issues for small business.


But Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, says Arbib’s impact on small business was limited due to his short time in the role.


“He didn’t have time to do much for small business. He was only in the job for two months,” Strong says.


“He engaged with us, we had deep discussions, we talked about what we needed – about small business commissioners, etc. – but now he’s gone of course so we’re going to have to do it all again with somebody else and that’s disappointing.”


Shadow small business minister Bruce Billson echoed Strong’s comments, saying the small business community will now have to explain its issues and concerns to a fourth minister.


“This continues the long line of failed Labor small business ministers with no feel and no experience in small business… No wonder the small business community is demoralised,” Billson says.


“It is well past time for Labor to follow the Coalition lead and appoint a Cabinet-level small business minister with the genuine drive and passion to support our struggling small business community.”


Strong says he is meeting with Arbib’s office tomorrow before a ministry reshuffle is announced on Thursday. He understands Mark Dreyfus and David Bradbury are both being considered.


Dreyfus is currently serving as Cabinet Secretary and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.


He entered Parliament in 2007 after being appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1999. His stated interests are the environment and indigenous Australians.


Bradbury also entered Parliament in 2007 and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer in September 2010.


Before entering Parliament, Bradbury was a senior associate practising in taxation law with law firm Blake Dawson, and a former mayor of Penrith in NSW.


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