Small business commissioners call for national red tape purge

By Oliver Milman
Thursday, 02 August 2012

State-based small business commissioners have urged the Federal Government to give its new small business commissioner genuine powers to slash red tape.


At the first ever public meeting of the state small business commissioners, at the Small Business Summit held in Melbourne yesterday, there was broad support for a new federal overseer, but with caveats.


Canberra has yet to unveil details on its federal small business commissioner, but it’s known that the role won’t have statutory powers, which has raised concern among the state opposite numbers.


“We don’t jurisdiction over businesses dealing with the federal government, so there is a gap there for the role,” said Mike Sinkunas, South Australia’s small business commissioner.


“But I’m not sure what impact a public servant will have. We’ve found that having statutory powers in South Australia has proved very influential. I’m not sure if we’d have the same affect if we didn’t have those powers.”


Regulation was identified as a key business bugbear by several of the commissioners, with Tasmania’s representative Amanda Castray saying: “We’ve done research on this and a lot of the red tape that small businesses face comes from the federal level.”


“To have someone at federal level who would take on red tape reform would be fantastic, but the question is, will they have that power?”


Victoria said he would welcome a federal counterpart but added: “There is risk of duplication of services and that would obviously confuse small businesses.”


All of the commissioners said that dispute resolution was a key focus of theirs, with widespread success – Victoria small business commissioner Geoff Browne said that 80% of conflicts that go to mediation are resolved successfully, while NSW small business commissioner Yasmin King said that just 20% of the state’s disputes actually enter any kind of mediation.


However, King underlined the problems faced by small ventures when it comes to red tape by saying: “There’s a systemic issue with the overwhelming amount of compliance that small businesses face. It seems to be escalating.”


“It worries me a lot that many small businesses don’t know about the regulations that affect them. They are told “well, it’s on the website”, but that’s not an effective way to get awareness out there.”


“A lot of them just get on with the job and hope they don’t get pinged for something they don’t know about.”

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