There was general shock in the small business community when it was announced Bruce Billson would no longer be Minister for Small Business in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s new Cabinet.
Universally regarded as a good Minister, Mr. Billson was replaced by Kelly O’Dwyer.
One theory, put forward by the Council of Small Business of Australia, was that Mr. Billson’s championing of new unfair contract rules, which provide protection for small business in their dealings with large corporations made him unpopular with “the big end of town” and therefore Mr. Turnbull.
But Mr. Billson may have just been a victim of the political numbers game. If Mr. Turnbull had wanted to promote Victorian, Kelly O’Dwyer, another Victorian would need to be demoted.
Kelly O’Dwyer was a lawyer and political staffer before entering politics, but her parents and grandparents were small business owners. She points to her parents losing their gift shop, which failed during the Recession of the 1990’s, as when her interest in politics started.
In addition to the Small Business ministry, Ms. O’Dwyer is also Assistant Treasurer, overseeing tax reform and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). This seems like a logical fit, as small business owners consistently rate ATO compliance as a barrier to growth.
But it is a large portfolio of issues to manage.
Whether this means small business will get the same level of attention as under Mr. Billson is the big unknown.
Most industry groups are cautiously optimistic that Ms. O’Dwyer will bring a fresh perspective to the role.
And she has said that she is looking forward to building on the achievements of Mr. Billson’s tenure.