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Statement re the appointment of FCA Executive Chair Bruce Billson and Fair Work Amendment Bill 2017

Written on the 9 August 2017

The Franchise Council of Australia (FCA) and FCA Executive Chair Bruce Billson make the following statements in regard to media reports on the subject of Mr Billson's appointment as FCA Executive Chair in March 2016 and the work Mr Billson has undertaken as the FCA's Executive Chair to engage on behalf of the sector regarding the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017.

STATEMENT ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE FCA:

The Franchise Council of Australia and its Executive Chair Bruce Billson have at all times acted with transparency and integrity regarding Mr Billson's appointment to the FCA Board.  

Mr Billson has undertaken this role with enthusiasm and propriety, including in all engagements and advocacy undertaken on behalf of the FCA's largely SME membership.  

The FCA commends our Executive Chair for his tireless advocacy on behalf of our members, particularly in regard to his efforts to educate and inform Ministers and Senators of the FCA's concerns and potential impacts to the economy of the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017.

STATEMENT ATTRIBUTABLE TO MR BILLSON:

The public record shows that I routinely lodged updated disclosures every few months during my 20 year parliamentary career, the last dated March 7, 2016.  This regular practice would have seen a further disclosure in the following months which would have included my directorship of the Franchise Council of Australia. This further disclosure was not lodged prior to the election being called and me ceasing to be a Member of Parliament on May 9, 2016. 

This was a discourtesy to the House of Representatives and an administrative failing on my behalf not to lodge a timely further disclosure statement before the parliament was dissolved.  I have contacted the Clerk of the House to convey my apologies for my error.

My appointment as the Executive Chairman of the Franchise Council of Australia was widely publicised and the subject of media coverage and public discussion.  There is no basis for inferring my appointment was concealed or not known publicly or within the parliament.

No conflict existed between my parliamentary responsibilities or FCA role. There were no public policy matters requiring my advocacy on behalf of the franchise community to Government in the two months when I undertook my FCA role in addition to my responsibilities as a Member of Parliament.

The Government's intentions to legislate to strengthen vulnerable worker protections were not known or revealed until the 2016 election campaign, when I was no longer a Member of Parliament. 

The FCA has not opposed the Government's 'joint employer liability/vulnerable workers' legislation.  

We have argued amendments are required to accommodate the diversity in size, resources and format of Australian franchise business and that if new legal obligations are to be introduced to make franchisors responsible for franchisee-employers properly paying their employees, this new accountability should depend on the franchisor having control or significant influence over this aspect of a franchisee's business.

The FCA will continue to focus on the policy considerations and legislative substance, with the view to constructive engagement that aims to advance the interests of the entire franchise community including employees, franchise business and system owners, suppliers and customers.


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