Small business minister Gary Gray Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Pop quiz: how many small business owners can name the Federal minister for small business or his Opposition counterpart?
How many can name their relevant state minister for small business?
How many people no longer care which minister oversees small business at Federal or state level, given the dismal collective record of politicians and the seemingly permanent status of small business as a “junior” portfolio.
Bruce Billson, Shadow Minister for Small Business
I bet you can’t name the six federal ministers for small business over the past three years or so without using Google. I struggle to remember the current minister, such has been the revolving door.
For all the blah, blah, blah from both political parties about the importance of small business, the portfolio always seems to go to a lower-profile minister, or be tagged on to several other ministries.
If ever there was a ministry needing a makeover, it is small business.
What’s your view?
- Who would you choose as Federal minister for small business after the election?
- What type of makeover does the portfolio need?
- What should be the new minister’s first priority for small business?
- Why is small business always a more junior portfolio?
It’s great the Coalition wants to cut $1 billion of green and red tape to help small business, double the number of start-ups, review competition laws, and repeal Labor’s tax hike on company cars.
Even better would be appointing one of its most senior, prominent ministers to the small business portfolio, assuming the Coalition wins the election, and elevating the ministry.
Somebody who regains the confidence of small business, genuinely champions the sector, and creates some much-need momentum and excitement. Somebody who devotes 100 per cent of his or her time to small business rather than be spread across three portfolios, and has a business background (rare in politics, I know).
Imagine having a high-profile Federal minister for small business who understands entrepreneurship and the incredible opportunities of a digital economy and the coming Asian century, which could see an extra 2.7 billion middle-class consumers in our region by 2030.
A minister who ensures small business has a bigger voice in policy making and the national business debate. We’ve barely heard from some Federal small business ministers in the past three years.
Perhaps we could have a Federal minister for small business and entrepreneurship, with an assisting minister focused on high-growth start-up ventures. Wishful thinking, I know, but the current dull approach to small business creates no confidence. We need a game-changer.
Appointing one of the Coalition’s biggest talents to the small business ministry would surely win more votes from the sector than talk about cutting red-tape and reviewing competition laws.
Both are much-needed reforms, but I’d argue having a high-profile minister overseeing small business – somebody the sector believes can actually implement reforms – would be a vote winner from the millions of Australians who work for themselves in one form or another, and the many more who will join them this decade, either as small business owners or contractors.
Tell me which politician is working overtime to ensure the next Google, Facebook, Twitter, ebay or Amazon is developed in Australia rather than the United States?
Which politician is ensuring more fast-growth Australian start-up ventures capitalise on incredible opportunities in Asia, rather than get left behind US and German companies in the region?
Which politician has the clout, intellectual nous and backbone to hold the big banks to account for their terrible small business lending practices and their constant squeezing of the sector, or take on the supermarket giants for market-power abuses against small suppliers?
Serious reform will lag if we have lower-profile Federal and state ministers oversee small business as part of their larger portfolio, or as a stepping stone to a bigger political role.