26 April 2021

Cheyne shoots down Lib push for Small Business Ministerial Advisory Council

| Ian Bushnell
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Leanne Castley

Opposition business spokesperson Leanne Castley said small business deserves a seat at the table. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

A push by the Canberra Liberals for the ACT Government to set up a Small Business Ministerial Advisory Council to give business more of a say in decision-making has been rebuffed, despite support from the main business lobby in the Territory.

Shadow Minister for Business Leanne Castley had proposed a motion in the Legislative Assembly on Friday (23 April) calling on the government to set up a council comprising small business experts who were small business owners themselves.

Ms Castley said the government had Ministerial Advisory Councils representing veterans, women, the multicultural sector, older Canberrans, youth and the LGBTIQ+ community, but had ignored the small business community.

She said small businesses had been calling for their own MAC so they would have a direct line to government.

“They deserve a seat at the decision-making table,” she said.

READ ALSO Why can’t small business have its own Ministerial Advisory Council?

But Minister for Business and Better Regulation Tara Cheyne said she was concerned that interests were so wide and varied across the small business community that an advisory council would not capture them all and that many, particularly in the micro-business community, would not have the time to attend meetings.

She said it would cause duplication, be a burden for business, and direct consultation would be the best way to ensure input into government decision-making.

Ms Castley said she was disappointed at the government’s response and staggered to hear Ms Cheyne’s comments.

She called on the minister to spend time with small business owners, the real experts in their field.

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt said the sector needed all the help it could get, and a MAC would enhance the partnership with government.

He said the appointment of a Minister for Business had been a good step towards building a solid partnership between government and business, but more could be done.

“A well-executed forum like the ministerial advisory council could add to that partnership, primarily by providing a diversity of views of business owners and providing a forum where they could actually bring their experience and talk about the barriers they face to their success and issues they face on the ground,” he said.

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Mr Catt said it would also help businesses understand the reasons behind government decisions and policies and ensure a positive relationship between the business community and government.

He said there were 30,000 active businesses in the ACT that provide 62 per cent of the jobs, and the vast majority would employ between one and 20 employees.

“Our economic growth in Canberra and generating more jobs are going to depend on supporting a dynamic small business sector,” Mr Catt said.

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HiddenDragon7:41 pm 25 Apr 21

“…..Tara Cheyne said she was concerned that interests were so wide and varied across the small business community that an advisory council would not capture them all….”

And yet corporatism works so well for every other sector and interest grouping etc. in Canberra……

Mike of Canberra7:01 pm 25 Apr 21

Just further to my earlier comment, this a government that not only denies public housing realities but also denies a seat at the table to small business people, the very backbone of our community. The first small inklings of an opposition with good ideas and policies is already exposing the shortcomings of this tired old government.

Mike of Canberra5:02 pm 25 Apr 21

Of course the ACT Government doesn’t want meaningful small business input into ACT Government decision making. Why? Perhaps Ms Cheyne fears hearing things that may not suit her or the broader ACT Government’s mindset. For instance, small business owners may tell her that the ACT is one of the most expensive places in Australia in which to do business. They may point out that, after allowing for all the taxes and charges Canberrans must pay to the ACT Government, they have comparatively little to spend on the products and services offered by Canberra’s many small businesses. They may say that the ACT Government’s longevity has inevitably led to it becoming stale and hubristic, with consequent detrimental effects on policy making in the ACT. What tired old government wants to hear that?

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