Western Australia is the latest state set to install a Small Business Commissioner, following in the footsteps of Victoria, South Australia and, potentially, New South Wales.
WA Small Business Minister Simon O’Brien yesterday announced the introduction of legislation to establish a commissioner modeled on the one in Victoria.
O’Brien said in a statement the commissioner will be established within the state government’s Small Business Development Corporation, replacing the position of the SBDC managing director.
O’Brien said the commissioner will provide a low-cost, non-litigious way of resolving business disputes within the state.
“While modeled on the successful Victorian commissioner, the expanded capabilities of our commissioner represent a significant improvement,” O’Brien said.
“The new commissioner will enhance the powers and functions of the SBDC and increase the range of services available for WA’s small business owners and operators.”
It is expected the model for the commissioner will include educative, advisory, investigative and mediation services in addition to the existing advocacy and policy functions of the SBDC.
The government is calling on the Opposition to support the bill, with shadow commerce and small business minister Ljiljanna Ravlich criticising the government earlier this year for failing to appoint a commissioner sooner, indicating the Opposition is in support of the move.
Ravlich said the commissioner must have the authority to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants in shopping centres, including negotiating lease and rent views.
“A commissioner is needed to intervene in situations where tenants’ rights have been breached,” she said.
“We continue to see disputes between tenants and landlords that can only be resolved with expensive legal action, which most small business operators cannot afford.”
A Small Business Commissioner can be of major value to small business owners on the receiving end of unfair business practices by large corporations, and where the policies of government departments disadvantage the business.
Victoria is currently the only state to have a Small Business Commissioner, and was recently named Australia’s most business-friendly jurisdiction in a report by the Business Council of Australia.
However, South Australia is in the process of appointing a commissioner and the NSW opposition has promised to do the same if, as expected, it is elected to government later this month.
Steven Wojtkiw, chief economist at the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says the Small Business Commissioner has played an important part in Victoria’s business-friendly status.
Peter Strong, executive director of Australia’s Small Business Council, says he’s not surprised the other states have followed Victoria’s example given the success of the model.