27th Annual SEAANZ Conference Plenary Panel Sessions

Plenary Panel Session: Small business policy forum part 1 - regulators, red tape and SMEs

Red tape and the cost of compliance remains a perennial and seemingly intractable problem. Each new government vows to address the issue and to lift the burden of bureaucracy from the shoulders of the small business owner. The challenge is significant. According to Dr Sergio Arzeni, Director of the OECD’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development, the cost of compliance to SMEs is 10 to 30 times greater than for large firms. He also claims that by reducing red tape by around 25% the average economy could achieve around an additional 1% point in economic growth.

However, Dr Arzeni also claims that the solution is not to remove regulation, but to find ways to be smarter with regulation. This search for “smarter regulation” can involve how regulatory agencies deal with small firms. According to Dr Warren Mundy from the Australian Productivity Commission, regulators should deal with SMEs on a case by case basis and adopt a “risk-based” approach. Firms that are deemed to be high risk need more regulation than those that are assessed as low risk. There should be greater discretion given to employees within regulatory agencies to deal with compliance enforcement and seek a change of culture within their organisations. There is room for better education and information by regulators to small business owners, and to make regulatory compliance processes timely, transparent and accountable.

Panel members:

Andrew Conway, Institute of Public Accountants
Andrew Conway FIPA is the Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA). A former Australian Government Treasury Ministry Chief of Staff, Andrew holds the record of being the youngest CEO of a public entity, when in 2009 he was 28 at the time of his appointment.  Andrew has represented Australia at a range of International events including APEC, G20 and World Trade Organisation. Andrew was awarded the 2011 Young Professional of the Year award, appointed an adjunct Professor of Accounting at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics was appointed by the Victorian Governor as a Director of Eastern Health and in 2001 and was awarded the Centenary of Federation Medal through the Order of Australia. Andrew's academic background and qualifications are in Commerce, education and commercial law.

Dr Michael Schaper, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
Dr Michael Schaper is the Deputy Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). He is also a Senior Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia and a past President of SEAANZ. Michael has previously held positions as ACT Small Business Commissioner, Dean of the Murdoch University Business School, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Newcastle, and Senior Lecturer in Small Business and Entrepreneurship at Curtin University of Technology. He has published several books and peer reviewed papers, and in 2009 was awarded the National Small Business Champion Award by the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA).

Ken Phillips, Independent Contractors Australia
Ken Phillips is Executive Director of Independent Contractors of Australia, a position he has held since co-founding ICA in 2000. Ken is an independent contractor operating as his own business, as a researcher, commentator and lobbyist, and consultant on workplace management issues. Amongst his many activities, Ken is a published authority on independent contractor issues and directs research on related commercial and trade practices issues. His strongest interest is management issues and the development of internal and external relationship building for organizations. Within this framework he promotes the concept of 'markets in the firm'. Through his numerous articles in newspapers and think-tank and academic journals, Ken is known for approaching issues from outside normal perspectives and is frequently sought out for media comment. A graduate of Deakin University with a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy), he retains a keen interest in academic pursuits and research. Ken has published a book entitled Independence and the Death of Employment. 

Dr Warren Mundy, Australian Productivity Commission
Dr Mundy has over two decades of experience in the infrastructure sector covering financing, management, planning and development, economic and environmental regulation and commercial negotiation of access agreements. For a number of years he was the principal regulatory and economic adviser to the Australian Council for Infrastructure Development. He has held senior executive roles in the airports industry in both Australia and Europe and has worked for McKinsey & Co. the Reserve Bank and the WA Treasury Corporation. Since his initial appointment as an Associate Commissioner in 2009 and permanent Commissioner in 2010, he has worked on a range of studies and inquiries including being the Presiding Commissioner on the Commission’s studies into Local Government as a Regulator and Regulator Engagement with Small Business and the Commission’s inquiry into Access to Civil Justice. Dr Mundy is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society of London and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He was recently appointed to the board of the Sydney Desalination Plant – a $2 billion small business. In 2013 he was the Presiding Commissioner for a major report into the regulators engagement with small business.

Plenary Panel Session: Small business policy forum part 2 - Dispute resolution for small firms; the Comissioners' view

The Australian Government has made a commitment to the transformation of the Australian Small Business Commissioner’s function into a Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman role. A key role of the new Ombudsman position will be to act as a ‘concierge for dispute resolution’. Currently the Australian Small Business Commissioner serves as a contact point for small businesses seeking information and assistance, including referrals to existing dispute resolution services and support in addressing such disputes. At the state level NSW, Victoria, WA and SA also have Small Business Commissioners with varying levels of responsibility for dispute resolution.
In a study undertaken by Orima Research for the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) in 2010, the incidents of disputes involving small businesses was relatively low, however, there were some industries (e.g. mining, wholesale, construction and utilities) where disputes were more frequent. Disputes were reported more by larger firms and those that had been established for longer. Young and very small firms were less inclined to report issues due to a desire to avoid disputes or because they lacked the resources to seek redress. Disputes took a variety of forms, but those that had become serious with legal action typically revolved around suppliers (33%), business partners or associates (5%), competitors (4%) or third-parties such as sub-contractors, banks etc. (4%). The most common cause of many disputes was disagreements over payment for goods and services (65%), and contracts (e.g. retail tenancy, franchising etc.) (30%). Resolution of such disputes was most commonly found via seeking legal advice and the initiation of legal action. This had a cost to the small firms that ranged from a no cost to $160,000, with about half of all respondents reporting “out of pocket” expenses of up to $2,000.
Although the majority of small firms surveyed did not use government support services in dealing with their disputes, the majority (57%) of those who did use such services were satisfied with the quality of the information or guidance they received. The study also showed that many small business owners did not fully understand the role or nature of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, although the majority (77%) of those who did make use of such services were satisfied with them. 

Panel members:

Mark Brennan, Australian Small Business Commissioner

Mark Brennan is the Australian Small Business Commissioner. He was appointed to this position in January 2013 and has a strong track record of achievement in the small business area. Prior to his current appointment Mark was the Victorian Small Business Commissioner for seven years. This was the first such appointment in Australia. In 2011 he was named "National Small Business Champion" by the Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA) for his work in guiding and developing the small business commissioner role in Victoria. Mark has owned and operated his own small business and has held a range of positions for the Victorian and Federal Governments. This included the Executive Director of Small Business in the former Department of State Development. In 2010 he was appointed Director of Liquor Licensing in Victoria, a position he held following his term as Victoria Small Business Commissioner. Mark is a qualified barrister and solicitor and has worked in private practice in these capacities. He is highly respected across all levels of government and the wider business community.

Geoff Browne, Victorian Small Business Commissioner

Geoff Browne was appointed as Victorian Small Business Commissioner in October 2011. Prior to the appointment, Geoff was Deputy Director at Consumer Affairs Victoria for six years. He has had senior management experience in both the public and private sectors, working in telecommunications, finance, and e-commerce.  He has also run his own small business. Geoff has a Master’s Degree and First Class Honours Degree in Economics, and a Graduate Diploma in Company Secretarial Practice.


David Eaton, Western Australian Small Business Commissioner

David Eaton was appointed Western Australia’s first Small Business Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC), on 21 December 2011.  He took up this position on 17 January 2012. As Commissioner, David is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the SBDC including overseeing an Alternative Dispute Resolution service for small business. Most recently, the Commissioner has undertaken an independent investigation into the non-payment of subcontractors on specific Government managed projects. Prior to this appointment, David gained extensive management experience through his early career as a business owner, growing a company from a small clothing and textile factory to a large manufacturing business wholesaling throughout Australia. He then began a successful corporate career with Australia Post, becoming a member of the National Executive team when he was appointed State Commercial Manager in 2003. In 2008, David accepted a national role based in Melbourne, leading a major business transformation program and developing an enterprise-wide framework to reposition Australia Post’s sales and marketing functions. David is a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is a past member of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games appeals committee.

Candace Barron, Director, Dispute Resolution Unit, Office of the New South Wales Small Business Commissioner
Frank Zumbo, Acting South Australian Small Business Commissioner

Plenary Panel Session: Aboriginal small enterprise in the real world

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprise around 2.5% of the total Australian population. However, their communities comprise a much higher proportion of economic and socially disadvantage households, and have a significantly higher proportion of young people less than 20 years of age. An important opportunity for enhancing the economic and social development of the Aboriginal community is self-employment and enterprise. Due to poor definition of what constitutes an Aboriginal business it is difficult to assess the size of the Aboriginal SME sector. However, it has been estimated that at least 12,500 Aboriginal Australians own and operated their own businesses and that the number of self-employed Aboriginal Australians has grown significantly in recent years. A key feature of indigenous small enterprise is that Aboriginal businesses employ Aboriginal people. One of the most effective mechanisms for economic and social development within Aboriginal communities is the fostering of Aboriginal owned businesses. However, there are many challenges facing the Aboriginal small business owner. Not only do they have to manage the risk and uncertainty of everyday small business operations, they also have to face additional pressures from their own community, and that of the mainstream community.

Panel members and speakers:

The Hon Victor Michael Dominello MP, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Government of NSW 
The Hon. Victor Dominello MP is the NSW Member for Ryde and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Minister for Veterans Affairs and Assistant Minister for Education in the NSW State Government. Born and raised in the Ryde district, Victor graduated with a degree in Law and worked as a solicitor in the Supreme Court of NSW and the High Court of Australia. In 1995 he was elected to the Council of the City of Ryde at the age of 28 and served with the council until 2004. His law career saw him appear in several High Court cases and in 2000 he became a Partner with Hetherington’s Solicitors. In 2008 he won the seat of Ryde and served as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, the Independent Commission Against Corruption Committee (ICACC) and a Trustee of the ANZAC Memorial. He was appointed as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 2011. 
Debbie Barwick, CEO NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce

Debbie is a Kamilaroi Woman from Bora Crossing who has spent the last 15 years working with Indigenous Business operators and entrepreneurs to support their vision to operate successful enterprises. With formal qualifications in business and an unwavering passion to empower Aboriginal people Debbie founded the first autonomous Indigenous Chamber of Commerce in Australia, Mandurah HIBC. This establishment was followed by other regional Chambers across the Country. These grass roots organisations have quickly become the Capacity Building Arm of an exciting and unique Business Sector. Taking this success one step further she worked with her peers to establish the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce as the first state representative Body for Indigenous Business. Debbie continued her work to Influence the landscape and history of Indigenous economic development by working with other Indigenous Leaders to establish AIMSC (Now Known as Supply Nation) as a National Certifying Body and the "Indigenous Business Council of Australia (IBCA)" as the Peak Body for the Sector.

Shane Jacobs, Pacific Services Group Pty Ltd

Shane Jacobs is the Australian Director of Pacific Services Group Holdings Pty Ltd. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a business owner in the Construction Industry.  Shane now sits on the board of a number of Indigenous organisations including the South East Queensland Chamber of Commerce. Shane’s indigenous heritage dates back over 300 years. His family is from the Wiradjuri people who were the first inhabitants of the Bathurst district and have been living there for at least 40,000 years. The Wiradjuri people are the people of the mountains, rivers and plains whose heritage is rich and ancient. Shane founded PSG group of companies in 2010, Shane has a long and distinguished career in the construction industry dating back to 1990 when he established a large and successful plumbing business with over 60 employees with an annual turnover of $10 million. Shane has installed a belief in all staff at PSG People that every Australian has equal opportunity to achieve their goals and dreams. To Manage and operate PSG People offices in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, Shane has aligned himself with experience managers and former business owners in the construction and on-hired labour services.

Dr Ella Henry, Te Ara Poutama, Auckland University of Technology

Ella Henry is a Maori woman from the far north of New Zealand. She is a Senior Lecturer in Te Ara Poutama, Faculty of Maori Indigenous Development at Auckland University of Technology. Ella has a background in Sociology, Maori Studies and Management. Her Masters' thesis focused on Maori women in management, and her PhD thesis on entrepreneurship in Maori screen production. She has also been involved in the development of the Maori screen industry. Ella has been actively involved in Maori broadcasting and pioneered one of the first on-campus Maori film festivals while studying at university in the 1980s. In 1996 she co-founded the Nga Aho Whakaari, the Association of Maori film, video and television. She has been an announcer for Maori Radio Waatea, as well as the host of a TV show called "Ask Your Auntie" on Maori Television. Ella will speak at the indigenous small enterprise summit to be held at the SEAANZ conference where she will provide a Maori perspective: "the Maori SME; a pathway to tino rangatiratanga". Download presentation>>>