Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — I was actually quite pleased with this bill. I did not mind it much, really. It seemed to be doing some good things. Early in my term of being elected I met with Geoff Browne. I was not aware of a lot of the work that the Victorian small business commissioner was already doing. This bill expands on that, and I am more optimistic, I think, than my friend Mr Ondarchie on where this will take us and how this will help the 556 000 small businesses in Victoria, that make up 97.6 per cent of all Victoria’s businesses.
I, too, have operated a small business over the years. I have rarely gone to government for help with a small business. I have taken the wins as my own and the losses as my own as well. But I do think that in this increasingly complicated world we are living in and with the changing nature of business a small business commission can assist businesses, certainly in the building up of a business. I looked at the website to see what services the small business commissioner offers businesses when they are new and upcoming and also when they find themselves in trouble with not only other business but government organisations. Someone was indicating to me on social media that they had an issue with Google. I have had an issue with Google in the past. I can tell members that it is very difficult to speak to someone at Google. The person that I was communicating with on social media was very pleased with the assistance that the small business commissioner had been able to offer in resolving a dispute with whatever Google Mate is. He was quite satisfied with that.
Where I find this bill interesting is that it is also expanding the ability of the commission to work with other states, because let us face it, most small businesses in Victoria do not trade just in Victoria. We have far more transportable industry now. The technology has enabled us to seek customers and clients not only within Victoria but around every jurisdiction in Australia and internationally. We require the commission to enable that to happen more easily and for the commissioner to be able to speak to other jurisdictions in a more satisfactory way. I was very pleased with that.
I actually keep the government’s election plan on my desk to just occasionally check back and see if it was in the book. This certainly was. In the book the government talked about the fact that with legislation we would get a small business impact. I would love it if in summing up the minister could possibly clarify that those impact statements will be made not just at the behest of the minister but as a matter of course — that is, that under the legislation relating to small business we will be provided with what one hopes is frank and fearless feedback from the Small Business Commission.
I certainly welcome the ability of small businesses to use the mediation and dispute services of the new commission when it comes to other government organisations, such as Victoria Police, the health services commissioner or a whole range of those organisations. I, too, have had to go through VCAT from a business position. I would welcome the opportunity to avoid VCAT at any cost, and I hope that this commission will enable more small businesses to do that in the future. I really do welcome this. I think it encourages the fair treatment of our small businesses, and I hope that it encourages us through our working through legislation to consider small business very carefully when introducing new legislation, including considering how it will impact on small business. I look forward to the Small Business Commission providing us with that information.
I was also encouraged that this bill gives the commission some investigatory powers. I think it is a very positive element of this bill. As an aside, I note with some disappointment that the human rights commissioner still does not have those investigatory powers. Prior to being elected here I was looking at a specific issue where small businesses were being discriminated against by banks and other businesses, but there was no recourse for those small businesses. They could not go to the small business commissioner and they could not go to the human rights commissioner. I do not think that this bill will right that wrong, but I do make a note that I would like to see the human rights commissioner also have investigatory powers similar to those of the small business commissioner.
We are going to need small business more and more. The type of industries we have and the types of jobs we will be doing in the future will be changing, and small business will be absolutely crucial to that. As I said at the beginning, I am actually quite pleased with this bill. I wish Judy O’Connell great success as the commissioner of this new commission. I look forward to receiving further feedback from small business on the success or otherwise of the commission, and I commend the bill to the house.