ONLY a day into his new job, federal small business minister Michael McCormack has been forced to defend the prime minister’s decision to drop the role from the inner cabinet.
Mr McCormack, the member for Riverina, was elevated from his previous post as assistant minister for defence following the Coalition’s election win.
His appointment was welcomed by the Council of Small Business of Australia, but the organisation was stung by what it considered a watering down of the sector’s influence in government.
“Mr McCormack has the confidence of the sector, however we are disappointed the portfolio has moved from cabinet and we will be seeking answers to why this has happened,” said the council’s chief executive officer, Peter Strong.
“Small business is powerful, employing around five million Australians and driving the country’s economy, so why has the portfolio moved?
“What’s happened and what pressures have caused this, perhaps big business and unions are in play?
“In our opinion, this is a step backwards for small business.”
Wagga Business Chamber president Tim Rose also expressed his personal concerns about the controversial change.
“I find it an odd decision to make,” Mr Rose said.
“I see one of the chief challenges of small business is to have a level playing field with big business.
“That is one of the key issues for Mr McCormack and it would be easier to deal with in the inner cabinet. This just makes his job harder.”
But Mr McCormack disagrees and told The Daily Advertiser on Tuesday he had smoothed the waters with Mr Strong during an hour-long meeting.
Mr McCormack said the fact he would have responsibility for one portfolio only meant he would be able to give 100 per cent attention to the small business sector.
And his experience as a small businessman himself before entering politics would also hold him in good stead, he argued.
“I know the highs and I know the pitfalls,” Mr McCormack said.
He said he received assurances the voice of small business would be heard in the inner cabinet.
“The treasurer said to me today that any legislation with a small business focus on it, I will be called into cabinet and asked to advocate on behalf of small business,” Mr McCormack said.