Statewide role for local business leader
WHO would want the job of leading the group charged with advising the State government on small business in Victoria right now?
With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing more small businesses to the brink than any other time in living memory, that job has fallen on Ballarat based Stuart Benjamin following his recent appointment as chair the Small Business Ministerial Council of Victoria.
“The position is effectively ratified by cabinet and the group is designed to give a direct line from small business straight into government, completely unfiltered with the unabashed goal that we want to make Victoria the best please to do business in,” Mr Benjamin said.
“What we are now focusing on in all the meetings we’ve had so far, and the interventions we’ve made, have been around survival and how do we allow businesses to survive this three, four, five, six months of absolute hell we’re going through so that when we come out the other side we have something we can provide stimulus to.
“I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that when we come out of the other side of this, this country will have the biggest boom it’s ever had.”
His recent appointment means that Mr Benjamin is the first person to chair the advisory panel from regional Victoria.
It’s something he said will benefit not just Ballarat.
“I’m very proud Ballarat born. I’ve lived and worked and studied all over the world but when it was time to start my first business and start a family, I wanted to come home,” he said. “And Ballarat’s been very good to me.
“This particular role is a statewide role, so I represent all small business interests for the entire state and will continue to do that fairly.”
Mr Benjamin’s other roles means he has strong connections to other levels of government.
As chair of the Grampians zone of Regional Development Australia, a Federal government body that connects Commonwealth, State and 11 local government areas with business, he said he’s able help to bring those stakeholders together.
“It’s already playing pretty well,” he said. “The ability to jump off a call with the Treasurer, the Minster for Small Business and the Minister for Industry in Victoria and then go straight into a call with the Federal ministers in similar fields has already started to play out during this crisis.”
Like almost every other business, small and large, in Victoria, Mr Benjamin’s company has been seriously impacted by the current COIVD-19 pandemic.
His day job is running land development company that he described as providing “cradle to grave” solutions. Some of his biggest areas of work include student and serviced accommodation space.
“We’ve been hit pretty hard by corona,” he said. “We’ve lost a couple of contracts that were very long standing.”
Minister for Small Business Adem Somyurek said the time was right for Mr Benjamin to step up into the big chair and noted the lead the small business advisory body was taking a lead during current challenges.
“Mr Benjamin made a strong contribution to the Small Business Ministerial Council over the last couple of years and was ready to step up to the position of chair,” Mr Somyurek said. “As chair he helps make sure the government gets a first-hand perspective on the needs of regionally-based small businesses.
“Mr Benjamin has already been active as chair, making sure the state’s economic ministers know how the coronavirus is affecting small businesses and what can be done to help.”