Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Friday, 23 April 2021) . . Page.. 1154 ..
My concern is that because the issues and interests across the business communities are so wide, so different and so varied, an advisory council may not be truly representative. I think this may have even been subtly flagged in Ms Castley’s motion, given it suggests there would need to be key sectors represented on a council, but there has been, until today, no suggestion of what these key sectors would be. The list she gave was long but it was by no means exhaustive. These are all entirely different communities; they are sectors and communities with different issues, different concerns and different passions.
It is worth noting, too, that the vast majority of our 30,000 small businesses are microbusinesses, many of whom are sole traders. Again, within this one community interests will be different. I am also concerned that an advisory council would be an extra burden on business. Ms Castley acknowledged herself that businesses do not have an enormous amount of time to sit around chat. It is not only that; businesses have different working hours and different working days. So an advisory council would not just be another ask. A regular meeting schedule would likely rule out entire sectors because what suits one sector as an appropriate time to meet and engage will be totally different for another sector.
So, as a government we will continue to engage with businesses in ways that suit them depending on their business, and in ways that are respectful of their time. Indeed, this is the approach that has informed the preliminary work of the Better Regulation Taskforce. One of the task force’s first and most critical initiatives has been talking to business about how to talk to business—what methods, with what frequency, suit business owners best to have their views and concerns heard by government. Wherever possible, the task force will seek to hear from businesses in forums at which they are already engaged, rather than making engagement itself a burden on business. Again, there are a range of issues—some very specific and some very particular to a business—that have been elicited through having those longer in-depth conversations directly with them as we begin this discovery phase.
But of course there are other ways that engagement has been occurring. It is important to acknowledge the work of Brendan Smyth, who, in addition to his work as Commissioner for International Engagement, has taken on the additional role of local business commissioner. Mr Smyth has worked hard throughout the pandemic with commercial landlords and their tenants to mediate mutually agreeable outcomes for changes to commercial lease arrangements. Mr Smyth also provides valuable advice to government on systemic issues facing businesses in the ACT, as we collectively deal with the pandemic.
And, while the Better Regulation Taskforce and the local business commissioner provide invaluable lines of communication between business and government, I will reemphasise that as Minister for Business and Better Regulation I have been holding many meetings and attending many forums. Indeed, I have in place some regular meetings with peak bodies, too. I have also made it very clear—from the very first interview I did on the day I was announced as minister, and repeatedly since—that my door is open. I can tell you that businesses have very much taken up that invitation. We have been listening, and we have also been reaching out. It has been an incredibly energetic schedule.