Western Australia is aiming to reduce unfair business practices by boosting the powers of the small business commissioner.

The Western Australian government has tabled changes to the Small Business Development Corporation Act 1983 in parliament.

The proposed reforms will allow the government to establish a specialised investigations and inquiry unit within the Small Business Development Commission.

The unit will support the small business commissioner to exercise new legislative powers, including:

  • Compelling head contractors for government projects to prove payments to subcontractors
  • Influencing change in government procurement of head contractors

The small business commissioner will also be able to:

  • Protect subcontractors from retribution for lodging complaints by protecting their identity
  • Make recommendations to the government, including potential sanctions and improvements to government policy

Small business minister Paul Papalia said the bill represents decades of work by industry stakeholders and the Small Business Development Corporation.

“While the initial focus of the amendment bill will be on the construction industry, the small business commissioner will also be empowered to investigate other sectors where behaviour is negatively impacting on small business, such as the retail sector,” he said.

“The focus of the corporation is to maintain strong, positive working relationships for business in WA, and that will continue to be their primary objective. I do hope resolutions are able to be reached prior to any serious investigation by the commissioner.”

Australia’s small business ombudsman, Kate Carnell, said the government had taken a step in the right direction.

“These are two pieces of legislation that will increase protections for subcontractors and small businesses,” she said.