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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 8 Hansard (5 August) . . Page.. 3478..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

the total funding figure, the commissioner's ability to shape a support environment for small business in the ACT is enormous.

The Small Business Commissioner Bill will establish a statutory body-a body supported by government but at arms length from government-to shape a fair, cooperative and competitive environment for small business in the territory. It will also work towards ensuring that government services for small business firms are effective, accessible and intuitive in their operation.

In broad terms, we see the day-to-day focus of the Small Business Commissioner to be on removing the impediments that are often put in the way of small business doing business: improving the interface between small business and government agencies, helping establish an advanced customer service approach between agencies and the business community and simplifying the process of government so that information and services are properly conceived and efficiently delivered.

We see the Small Business Commissioner developing roles and functions around dispute resolution and dispute prevention-for example, being a facilitator between parties to a small business dispute, whatever its source or whoever the parties might be. We also see the Small Business Commissioner developing a capability-or small business antennae-to flag problems and issues before they become intractable or divisive. The ACT Small Business Commissioner Bill creates a role for the commissioner to review and improve government legislation that impacts upon the small business sector. Importantly, the bill provides for a new channel of advice from the commissioner to government on small business issues.

Lastly, we see the Small Business Commissioner playing an active role in education and cultural change to support our aspirations for small business, a communications effort that will largely be directed at government agencies and, more broadly, the ACT community. The legalisation I present here today more fully describes the formal roles of the Small Business Commissioner in clause 11 of the bill. However, I would stress that in framing this legislation we have avoided being overly prescriptive.

Government funded small business advocacy bodies-those with proactive work programs and supporting powers-have been established in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Although the three existing state bodies differ in function and resourcing, each has been highly successful in its own right. The lesson we have drawn from this experience is that the commissioner needs to develop a work program and style of operation that reflect the issues faced in the ACT and the internal dynamics of the sector. In that regard the government Small and Micro Business Advisory Council will be an important source of information and advice to the commissioner.

We are also seeking to establish a legislative framework where the work of the Small Business Commissioner will complement, and mesh with, the work of the other governing agencies. For example, the Small Business Commissioner will not overlap or circumvent the important review and dispute resolution work undertaken by the Office of Fair Trading, the Ombudsman or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Rather, the focus of the commission will be on early and low-key involvement, to address issues before they become problems for individual businesses or broader problems.

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