University of NSW associate professor Frank Zumbo has been appointed South Australia’s deputy small business commissioner, tasked with resolving issues in the franchising and farming sectors.
Zumbo, who drafted bills for state-based franchising laws in both South Australia and WA, will focus on creating new codes of conduct for both the franchising and farming sectors.
“It’s a part-time position, so it’s one day a week. I will develop industry codes of conduct – two priority areas are farming and franchising,” Zumbo told StartupSmart.
“Basically, we want the participants in those sectors to get on with business and be successful. We want to minimise disputes in those sectors [by encouraging parties] to talk to one another extensively.”
“We’ll develop industry codes – where appropriate – to set out, clarify and strengthen segments within that sector. In the franchising sector, codes will be designed to complement the existing [national] franchising code.”
Zumbo’s appointment has been met with animosity from the franchising industry, which rejects the notion of state-based franchising laws, insisting the national code is sufficient.
Steve Wright, executive director of the Franchise Council of Australia, says it’s impossible for Zumbo to claim impartiality in his new role given that he drafted the controversial bills.
“We share the concerns flagged by the Opposition about this appointment,” Wright told SmartCompany.
“It appears to have happened without any selection process, without advertising the position, and that appears to be at odds with usual practice for public service appointments.”
“We also believe it is impossible for Professor Zumbo to claim impartiality. He therefore must excuse himself from any issue brought before the office, and we do not believe he is a credible candidate.”
South Australian Small Business Minister Tom Koutsantonis has defended the appointment, claiming Zumbo is the right candidate for the job.
“I think it is exactly who we would hire. The fact he gave advice goes to show his level of commitment to his discipline,” Koutsantonis told The Australian.
But doubts have been raised over Zumbo’s effectiveness in the role, given that he will continue to be based at the University of NSW, rather than in Adelaide.
“To suggest he can now fulfil this role of acting small business commissioner for South Australia, from home in Sydney, cannot possibly give confidence to small businesses that their concerns are being taken seriously,” Wright said.
Zumbo has rejected these claims, insisting he will regularly commute from NSW to South Australia, but says he doesn’t need to be physically based there in order to fulfil the role.
“There is an expectation I will have blocks of time where I will be based in Adelaide, but a lot of the work can be done on the internet,” he says.
“In cases of urgency I could fly to Adelaide, but the expectation is that travel will be kept to an absolute minimum. If I’m drafting papers, that can be done anywhere.”