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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 8 Hansard (5 August) . . Page.. 3479..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

I would also expect the Small Business Commissioner to work closely with BusinessACT on information and communication activities relating to the small business sector. In 2004-05 the government is providing $340,000, from the existing business and economic development budget to appoint a commissioner and establish an appropriate level of resource support. The government is very conscious about not creating additional layers of bureaucracy through this initiative. We need, however, to establish a position in government with seniority and with the authority to open bottlenecks and the ability to shake the tree when it needs to be shaken.

On successful passage of this bill, the government will commence the process of recruiting the ACT's first Small Business Commissioner. The government would like to make an appointment as soon as is possible, subject to the obligations of the caretaker period we will soon be entering. We are also aware that the role will require a unique set of skills: an understanding of the process of government but also strong empathy with and understanding of small business issues. Accordingly, we will consult the business community on the appointment.

In closing, it is important to reflect on the reasons why the government has implemented this initiative. There are some 20,000 small businesses in the ACT, employing around 53,000 people. That is over half the territory's private sector employment. Small businesses make up 96 per cent of the territory's private sector enterprise pool. On sheer numbers alone, there is an argument to establish a specialist capability around government to maximise the potential of the sector.

While skills and capability do exist within agencies like BusinessACT, a commitment to an independent commission is a clear signal of the importance the government attaches to the development of small business in the territory. The government has established a challenging aspirational goal for the small business sector, and we know that this goal needs to be driven without compromise. The Small Business Commissioner will play an important part in this process.

For the continued growth and long-term health of the ACT economy, the government wants to see small business unimpeded and unshackled as it develops and grows. We also want to set up an environment that is conducive to business formation and nurtures development and innovation. We know that this environment has many dimensions, and the commissioner has an important role to play in delivering tangible services and also changing mindsets and culture.

We have consulted widely in the development of this legislation, including with the government's Small and Micro Business Advisory Council. I believe there is strong support in the ACT business community for this initiative and an expectation that the commissioner will be given the authority, and free hand, to develop a work program that makes a difference.

The legislation I present to the Assembly today meets these important requirements and expectations. I might add that this legislation and process are complementary to the workplace changes we have also made. The government recognises that successful business and safe and reasonable working conditions are not incompatible with each other-others might not.

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