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Arbib replaces Sherry as Small Business Minister

Monday, 12 December 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
The Gillard Government has appointed Mark Arbib as Australia’s Small Business Minister following the resignation of Nick Sherry, who held the title for little more than a year.


Arbib, who will retain his title as Minister for Sport, was formerly the Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development and Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness.


He has now been promoted to the position of Assistant Treasurer and Small Business Minister, meaning that, along with his role managing business in the senate, he will have four different roles.


Arbib will sit outside cabinet, continuing the stance of the Gillard government to not include small business at the top table of decision making.


According to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Senator Arbib will help sharpen the focus of people wanting to start their own small business.


“I will be looking to Mark Arbib... to be in touch with the needs of our small business community and for being in touch with Australians who see their future being creating their own small business,” Gillard said today.


The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed Arbib’s appointment, saying he is “well experienced” in dealing with ACCI and the business sector during the Rudd government.


Meanwhile, shadow small business Minister Bruce Billson cast doubt over Arbib’s ability to manage the portfolio, and also questioned his credibility.


“Hopefully, Senator Arbib can take the knife he used on Kevin Rudd to slash red tape for small business,” Billson said in a statement.


“I’m not sure how much the small business sector can trust Mark Arbib after he was one of the faceless men who dethroned Rudd.”


“I doubt there will be more of a focus on small business with Senator Arbib getting small business bolted on with his existing duties.”


The news comes amid a dramatic Cabinet reshuffle by Gillard, designed to elevate Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten into the industrial relations portfolio.


Cabinet ministers were called to the Lodge over the weekend to learn their fate, with Sherry identified as one of several ministers set to lose their title.


But Sherry beat Gillard to the punch, stepping down from his role and retiring from politics after 21 years, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.


“This was my decision – I did not consult with anyone in the Labor Party,” Sherry said.


“I’ve just turned 56 and you do think about these issues a little more when you get a touch older. I am fit and energetic, I enjoy being a minister but... I came to the conclusion it was time.”


Sherry was appointed Minister for Small Business in September 2010, after serving as Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law under the Rudd Government.


In 2009, he was promoted to Assistant Treasurer, during which time he established the national Tax Practitioners Board and significantly reformed GST administration arrangements.


Sherry also sat on Cabinet’s Expenditure Review Committee, responsible for the management of the Federal Budget, and had responsibility for the Productivity Commission, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Royal Australian Mint and the Board of Taxation.


Here are a few of the highlights of Sherry’s short-lived reign as Small Business Minister:


Sherry’s dire prediction for book chains


Sherry sparked outrage in June with his prediction that general bookstores will be absent from the market within five years, with the Opposition describing him as a “prophet of doom”.


The backlash came after Sherry told a conference that online shopping would wipe out general bookstores within five years, expecting only specialist players in capital cities to survive.


 ACCC endorses Sherry’s dispute resolution service


Sherry’s push for a business-related dispute resolution system won the support of the competition regulator, despite receiving a lukewarm response from industry groups.


In July, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it supported the idea of a low-cost dispute resolution service, one of a number of measures proposed by Sherry.


Other proposals included a national small business hotline, a small business tribunal and a small business advocate.


 Sherry backflips over restaurant menu rules


In September, it was revealed restaurants and cafes may no longer be forced to display separate menus, for days when surcharges are applied, after Labor said the requirement was burdensome.


Sherry said the change of heart will “reduce red tape for tens of thousands of restaurants and cafes, most of which are small businesses."