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Small Business Commissioner Bill 2013

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(Circulated by authority of Senator Whish-Wilson)












The purpose of this bill is to provide for an advocate and representative of small business at a Federal level by establishing an Office of the Small Business Commissioner.

Part 1 - Preliminary

Part 1 of the Bill, Section 1 -3, relates to the preliminary matters including the Bill’s commencements and definitions. The Bill is intended to commence on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.

The Bill defines the terms Commissioner, Office of the Small Business Commissioner and small business . The definition of ‘small business’ is consistent with the Australian Bureau of Statistics definition.

Part 2 - Office of the Small Business Commissioner

Division 1 - Establishment:

Division 1 establishes the Office of the Small Business Commissioner.

Division 2 - Functions and powers of the Commissioner:

Section 8 sets out the dispute resolution functions of the Commissioner. The Commissioner has dispute resolution functions and powers which allow them to receive and investigate complaints from small businesses about their dealings with Departments, Statutory Agencies and Executive Agencies of the Commonwealth. It also allows the Commissioner to investigate complaints and facilitate resolutions of these complaints. The Division also provides for the Commissioner to undertake any action that is appropriate for the purpose of facilitating the fair treatment of small businesses in their commercial arrangements with other businesses noting the constitutional restraints as outlined under Section 8 (2) of the Bill. The Division provides for the Commissioner to enter into agreement with state and territory bodies such as small business commissioners or the Departments of Fair Trading so that the Commissioner can provide advice and assistance in respect of any disputes with national ramifications.

Section 9 sets out the reporting functions and powers. The Commissioner has a monitoring and reporting role. This section gives the Commissioner power to monitor and investigate market practices that may adversely impact small business and to report their findings to the Minister for Small Business. This section also requires an annual report to the Minister.

Section 10 requires the Commissioner to prepare and publish information for small businesses to inform them about entering into commercial arrangements with Departments, Statutory Agencies or Executive Agencies of the Commonwealth and to undertake research about small business. Although not prescribed in the Bill, this research could include investigations such as the size of the small business sector, survey work and topical issues.

Section 11 allows the Commissioner to share information with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

Division 3 - Information gathering powers:

Subsection 13 (1) allows the Commissioner to obtain information and documents relevant to a matter that is being inquired into by the Commissioner under this Act. Subsection 13(2) sets out how any documents obtained by the Commissioner will be treated once they are in the Commissioner’s possession.

Subsections 13(3) to (5) provide for the Commissioner to require a person to appear before the Commissioner to answer questions under oath that are relevant to the matter under inquiry. Subsection 13(6) sets out financial penalties if a person or body corporate fails to attend before the commissioner.

Division 4 - The Commissioner:

Division 4 provides for the appointment of the Commissioner and their ability to appoint staff and consultants and delegate their powers.

Subsection 16 provides that the individual known as the Federal Small Business Commissioner at the date this Act receives Royal Assent shall be appointed as the first Small Business Commissioner.

Section 17 sets out the Commissioner must be appointed on a full time basis and for up to 5 years.

Sections 18 to 27 provide for further conditions of employment for the Commissioner, including remuneration, leave arrangements, resignation, termination of employment, acting arrangements, disclosure of interests, appointment of staff and consultants and delegation of functions or powers to members of staff.

Division 5 - Annual reports and regulations:

Section 29 sets out that an annual report must be provided to the Minister by the Commissioner on the operations of the Office of the Small Business Commissioner as soon as practicable after the end of each financial year and that within 15 sittings days of the Minister receiving the report it must be laid before each House of the Parliament.



Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Small Business Commissioner Bill 2013


Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011


The purpose of this bill is to provide for an advocate and representative of small business at a Federal level by establishing an Office of the Small Business Commissioner.

Human Rights Implications:

This bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms.


This bill is compatible with human rights as it does not raise any human rights issues.