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Accountants’ group calls for Small Business Commissioner with teeth

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Australia’s small business will soon get a voice, direct access to the Minister for Small Business, and surely the ear of the Prime Minister as well.

But what is not clear is whether or not the soon-to-be-established small business commissioner will have teeth.

And a Small Business Commissioner with teeth is exactly what industry groups are calling for, now that applications or expressions of interest for the job from qualified candidates have been requested.

The Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) said the Commissioner can make a real difference only if the office is an independent statutory body.

Consultative process sought

“The allocation of $8.3 million over four years in the 2012-13 Federal Budget for the office of a Small Business Commissioner is a welcome initiative that recognises the importance of small business in Australia,” said Institute’s chief executive officer, Andrew Conway.

“However, while we have been long-time advocates of such a role, we believe the government must have meaningful consultation around the powers and role of the Small Business Commissioner. The new role must have the ability to independently consult with government on matters that may affect small business while also being able to provide practical solutions to the sector,” he added, speaking from the International Small Business Conference in Wellington at the New Zealand Parliament House.

The Commissioner is expected to act as a “one-stop shop” for small business people, representing their concerns and interests directly to the government, meeting a longstanding demand for better advocacy, advice and information.

The IPA said it sees the establishment of the federal Small Business Commissioner as a way of providing meaningful support to the small business sector and looks forward to providing input into the development process.

The Australian government, which in March announced its plan to set up the office of the Small Business Commissioner, has said the Commissioner will be a “strong voice for small business,” calling the sector of the backbone of the national economy. About Our 2.7 million small businesses employ nearly 5 million Australians and contribute one-third of the private economy.

Minister for Small Business, Brendan O’Connor, has said the government is looking for an “outstanding leader with excellent interpersonal and communication skills and a thorough understanding of the issues facing small businesses” to fill the position. Candidates have until 22 June to apply. The commissioner is expected to take up office on 1 January.

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