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Risk of conflict in SA Small Business Commissioner Bill

Offices of small business commissioners emerging around the country ought to be coordinated, so as to ensure a lack of conflict or overlap with national law, the legal symposium at the Franchise Council of Australia’s National Franchise Convention heard today.

FCA Executive Director Steve Wright said it was interesting to hear the views of ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper, who said that this was a matter of significant importance to franchise systems, especially those operating nationally.

During his presentation, Dr Schaper said dispute resolution services needed to be integrated and seamless and other aspects of small business commissioner powers should avoid conflict with national regulations and statutes.

Mr Wright said Dr Schaper’s comments were very timely, given the imminent debate in the upper house of the South Australian Parliament on the SA Small Business Commissioner Bill 2011 being pushed through parliament by SA Small Business Minister Tom Koutsantonis.

“FCA supports the concept of a small business commissioner, based on the Victorian model, which Mr Koutsantonis told Parliament he was introducing,” Mr Wright said.

“However what he actually brought before parliament is very different and means SA will be out of step with other SBC offices around the country and will be taking SA business into the past by introducing back-door franchising legislation where a comprehensive national regime already exists.”

The FCA has called on the upper house of the SA Parliament to either create an enquiry to give the bill a thorough examination or to amend it to prevent it from interfering with existing national laws.

Mr Wright says the ACCC’s view is consistent with the federal government, other state governments, leading national trade practices experts, business associations and local SA lawyers, franchisors and franchisees, that franchising is best regulated nationally, and it is a risk of negative impact on business investment to proceed otherwise.

“SA business confidence already lags behind the rest of the country; this is going to make matters worse, not better,” Mr Wright said.

9 October 2011

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