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FCA raises more questions about Zumbo appointment

The Franchise Council of Australia (FCA) has joined a chorus of concern about the appointment of Sydney-based Associate Professor Frank Zumbo as Deputy Small Business Commissioner for South Australia.  


As the Deputy SBC for SA, Mr Zumbo can act as the SBC as long as the SA Government desires.  The Minister has given the SBC a broad range of responsibilities including the monitoring of fair treatment of small businesses, receiving and investigating complaints and mediating disputes.

“As an active lobbyist and paid participant in the political process leading up to the creation of the SBC office, how can Mr Zumbo now be appointed umpire?”  FCA Executive Director Steve Wright said.

The SA Opposition criticised the appointment yesterday, describing it as without proper process and raising questions over apparent conflicts of interest.  SA Small Business Minister Tom Koutsantonis acknowledged yesterday that the position had not been advertised, and was dismissive of conflict of interest concerns.


“Given the responsibilities of the SBC this appointment seems most unusual and very much out of step with most public service appointments,” Mr Wright said.


“Mr Zumbo must be prevented from any involvement in franchising matters, as he has a clear bias.  It is critical that the SBC have the confidence of the small business sector, and be seen to be impartial, objective and independent.  We cannot see how Mr Zumbo can meet that standard in the context of franchising – the most dynamic of the small business sectors.


“In fact it is difficult to see how he can objectively fulfill any of the key responsibilities of the role described by Minister Koutsantonis.  Mr Zumbo has been an active lobbyist and has participated in disputes; how can he now be investigator or adjudicator?


“Mr Zumbo has publicly stated that he was responsible for drafting proposed legislation in SA and WA, which he said was needed to stamp out unnamed alleged ‘rogues’ in franchising.  Even if his motivations were honorable, it seems now impossible for him to claim independence as he has done publicly in the past, apparently while simultaneously being paid by the taxpayers of SA and NSW.


“There is certainly no way he could now regard himself as independent in any franchising dispute that might be raised with him as acting SBC.  And his recent activities should definitely disqualify him from being considered to fill the role fulltime.”

 

1 February 2012


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