Small business policy and programs responsibility has been moved to Treasury from the Department of Industry as part of a Machinery of Government rearrangement.
The Administrative Arrangements Order, signed by Governor-General David Hurley late last week, includes two key changes relating to industry and innovation-focused policy, with the Digital Transformation Agency shifted to the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet from Services Australia.
The other significant change has seen the responsibility for small business policy and programs, and the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Act, moved from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources to Treasury.
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business Stuart Robert, who was appointed in the role in late March, will retain responsibility for small business policy despite it being housed in the Treasury portfolio.
Small business policy development is now likely to receive significant better resourcing now that it’s sitting within Treasury, which is responsible for a number of key policy areas for the sector, including competition and tax.
Following his appointment as part of the ministerial reshuffle last month, Mr Robert said support for small businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a key focus in his new role.
“We need to ensure the backbone of Australia’s economic prosperity – small and family business – are given every opportunity to thrive,” Mr Robert said.
The administrative arrangements order from last week omitted “small business policy and programs” from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources’ remit, and added it to the Department of Treasury.
It also moved the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Act 2015 to Treasury. Former Liberal Minister Bruce Billson was earlier this year appointed the new small business ombudsman, and there is currently an inquiry running into the effectiveness and efficiency of the office.
The same order also shifted responsibility for whole-of-government information and communications technology and tech procurement policy and services from the Department of Social Services to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
This move has transferred the Digital Transformation Agency from Services Australia to Prime Minister & Cabinet, where it had resided until late 2018.
Despite the shift, Mr Robert has retained control of the DTA in his current role as employment minister.
Mr Robert has also gained a new role in the powerful Cabinet expenditure review committee, and will also keep his role as chair of the Service Delivery and Coordination committee