Western Australia has appointed former small business owner David Easton as the state’s first Small Business Commissioner, following in the footsteps of Victoria, NSW and South Australia.
Eaton will be tasked with investigating complaints about unfair market practices affecting small business, and providing a low-cost alternative dispute resolution service.
In addition to being a former small business owner, Eaton is the former national manager of commercial services at Australia Post. He will start his new job on January 17.
Eaton will also act as the chief executive of the Small Business Development Corporation.
“I am looking forward to working with the small business community in Western Australia. I acknowledge that this sector of the community faces unique challenges,” Eaton told PerthNow.
“I am also confident that the SBDC will continue to help small business take advantage of the fantastic opportunities that the current and future Western Australian business environment does, and will, provide.”
There are now four small business commissioners across the country, with South Australia, WA and NSW also forming independent bodies this year to deal with dispute resolution.
Victoria was the first state to appoint a Small Business Commissioner, while Queensland has a Business Commissioner, focusing primarily on red tape.
South Australia passed its Small Business Commission Bill two months ago. The independent statutory office will investigate complaints about unfair market practices and mediate between parties.
Meanwhile, Yasmin King was appointed NSW’s first Small Business Commissioner earlier this year.
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, says feedback to the new state-based commissioners is “very positive.”
“One thing that makes us very excited about how this is going to work is some of the business associations are expressing concerns, which must mean they’re forced to be fair with small business,” Strong says.
“We’d expect to see more transparency and fairer deals, particularly with leasing and contracts.”
The successful appointment of state-specific small business commissioners has strengthened hopes the Federal Government will announced a federal position early next year.
According to Strong, the “prospects are good” for a federal Small Business Commissioner being announced in early 2012, despite expectations the next Federal Budget will be a “fierce” one.
“We’re certainly working hard in consultations with government departments in saying, ‘We need an independent small business commissioner’,” Strong says.
“We need a federal commissioner which then ties the states together. It won’t have jurisdiction over retail leases, but will certainly be able to influence policy put together by the Federal Government, which is very important.”