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.
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.
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.