Federal Small Business Minister Nick Sherry has released an options paper aimed at improving dispute resolution between businesses, complete with four models.
Speaking at a function in Melbourne this morning, the Senator said he believes new dispute resolution is needed because his Department’s research suggests as many as one in five businesses find themselves in disputes.
Senator Sherry foreshadowed the options paper in this February 2011 interview with My Business.
“Disputes involving small businesses are inevitable,” the Minister said today, adding that “The nature of business in Australia means dispute resolution can also transcend state borders.”
“To my way of thinking, we need a process that is accessible, prompt and as low cost as possible for small businesses. We need to canvass options for a national approach to small business dispute resolution that meets those criteria.”
The four options the Minister outlined today are:
1. A national information and referral service
This would provide a telephone hotline and website directing small businesses to available dispute resolution services and assistance. Callers would be guided through dispute resolution options and then referred to appropriate services in their state or territory.
2. A national dispute resolution service
This service would provide information and referrals similar to option one, but also offer mediation where no appropriate low cost dispute resolution service exists.
3. A national small business tribunal
A tribunal would specifically deal with small business disputes. It would have the role of investigation and conciliation, backed by Commonwealth legislation. The tribunal would be both a national network and a one-stop shop for small businesses in dispute. It could be based in a capital city and potentially use existing federal court infrastructure.
4. A small business advocate
The Small Business Advocate would offer independent representation of small business interests and concerns within the Australian Government.
“I would judge the system a success if it is able to keep those disputes which can be dealt with by low-cost and speedy services - out of the courts,” Minister Sherry said.
The options paper can be found at www.innovation.gov.au/disputes
What do you think of the four options outlined above? Let us know in the comments field below.