Alistair Brightman

Good news for small business

ACCORDING to recent news reports, there have been a couple of positive changes for small business on the federal front.

The first was the elevation of the Small Business Minister to Cabinet. Personalities aside, having a voice in cabinet with a direct say in the direction of government should be a positive result for small business.

The second piece of good news was the announcement that the position of Small Business Commissioner for Australia has been created to champion the cause of the country's 2.7 million small businesses.

As usual with these types of announcements, details are a little sketchy, but it appears that the Commissioner's role will be similar to the role of the Commissioners at the State lever.

That is, trying to explain government policies and procedures and relaying the concerns of small business to the appropriate decision-makers.

Stay tuned for more on this - the Small Business Commissioner will be appointed mid this year.

We hope that the Commissioner has the power to force government departments to work with the small business community to overcome some of the obvious issues that face small businesses who provide goods and services to the government.

As regular readers will know, we are acutely aware of the cashflow problems faced by many small businesses, and these problems are not helped by bureaucratic red tape (which increases the cost of dealing with government and delays legitimate payments for goods & services provided).

If I could be the first in line to hand the Small Business Commissioner my wish list (and I'm sure there would be many behind me!), I would wish for the following to be true of the new office:

The power to compel the relevant government officials to attend arbitration
Unless this can happen, the Commissioner will be largely ineffective. Being required to justify actions or a position in a more public forum is often an incentive for bureaucrats to face reality.

A social media presence to gain first-hand information from frustrated business owners
The days of consultative committees have long gone. These are inefficient and rarely get results. The committee of today is found on social media - whatever platform you wish. However, this makes consultation much more open and urgent, which isn't a bad thing!

Independence from government control
The ongoing problem with any government-appointed watchdog is that the government can un-appoint or under-resource the incumbent if they step on too many toes. I don't know how this problem can be resolved, but I'm sure students of government processes could find a workable solution.


It is encouraging to see the Federal Government recognising that small businesses employ some 5 million people, and often bear the brunt of poor government policy.

Hopefully these changes will help to overcome the errors of the past, and may be a step towards the goal of reducing government red tape - meaning a brighter future for small business.

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