Former small business minister Michael McCormack becomes deputy prime minister

SmartCompany, February 26, 2018

Former small business minister Michael McCormack has been elected leader of the Nationals Party this morning, making him the nation’s incoming Deputy Prime Minister.

In a statement on Friday, McCormack stated his intent to run for the position of leader of The Nationals, after Barnaby Joyce stepped down from the position last week.

“I want to acknowledge Barnaby Joyce for his leadership of The Nationals over the past two years and thank him for being a true advocate for the needs of regional areas. His legacy will endure. I wish him well for the future,” McCormack said.

The result means the nation now has a deputy with a strong focus on small and regional businesses, with the former small business minister long championing the importance of making it easier for Australians to do business, particularly out of city centres.

During his time in the portfolio, McCormack advocated for legislation to amend the Competition and Consumer Act to implement an effects test mechanism to level the playing field for SMEs, as well as committing to help more small businesses win government contracts.

He was the ninth small business minister in under nine years, and held the role at a time when it sat outside of cabinet. Fairfax reports McCormack believes the small business portflio should return to cabinet, which could now be on the cards given his deputy prime ministership.

“A win” for SMEs

Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell says McCormack’s new positions is a win for small businesses.

“The great thing is Michael will put small business front and center. The National Party have always been small business friendly because there are lots of small businesses in rural areas,” she tells SmartCompany.

“It’s great to have someone who has owned a small business to lead The Nationals.”

However, Carnell suggests that with new coalition agreement negotiations on the horizon, it isn’t a given that his election will mean the small business portfolio returns to cabinet.

“The challenges with the discussions might mean [another portfolio] has to fall out. We’re pleased he’s put it on the table and we wish him well.”

Other chief executives congratulated him on the announcement, highlighting his detailed focus on issues like cybersecurity.

Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong says McCormack could focus on industrial relations for SMEs during his tenure as deputy prime minister, as well as pushing for cabinet to re-include the small business portfolio.

“It would make a difference as in we’re the biggest employer in the nation. We should have a representative in the top decision making process.”

SmartCompany contacted the deputy prime minister but he was unavailable for comment prior to publication.

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