By David Bates

With a number of Commissioners resigning from their lucrative and life-long (well, until 65) appointments to the Fair Work Commission, the Minister, Senator Michaelia Cash, has confirmed that replacements will be announced in the near future.

So I dare the Minister, no – I double dare her – to finally appoint some actual small business owners to fill these vacancies.

Quite frankly, the last few years have seen the last of the Commission’s credibility go up in flames. Whether it was the train crash behaviour of former Vice President Michael Lawler (he of the extraordinary Four Corners interview while on 11 months of fully-tax-payer-funded personal leave), or the more recent departure of Vice President Graham Watson (who sent a scathing letter of resignation to the Minister describing chaos and dysfunction), there are very few still of the opinion the Commission is meeting the community’s expectations.

So, enough is enough, Minister. No more top-of-town lawyers being tapped on the shoulder for the Commission please.

And, for the love of God, please don’t appoint any more trade union officials to what is already a union-dominated Commission.

And just in case you’re tempted to take the easy option, please don’t appoint the current Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, to the Commission either. The last thing the Fair Work Commission needs is another career public servant deciding the fate of small businesses.

I know this is novel and a little ‘out of the box’, but how about appointing some people who’ve actually run a small business? You know, people who understand the long hours, hard work, and thankless effort that’s required to keep the lights on, the employees paid, and the customers happy.

You might not think ‘Nancy the newsagent’ or ‘Dan the drycleaner’ are qualified to be Fair Work Commissioners. But let me assure you they know more about the real world, managing staff and running a business than an employer association lawyer or trade union official ever will.

Imagine the common sense and integrity Commissioners like Nancy and Dan would bring to the table. Imagine how hard they’d work (because they’re used to it). Imagine how excited they’d be to help others – employers and employees alike – resolve their disputes and run successful businesses. Imagine their unique insight into the realities facing employers and employees in contemporary Australian small businesses.

Go on Minister, be brave. Accept my challenge. Ruffle a few feathers and put an end to the ‘business as usual’ approach that has virtually destroyed public confidence in the Commission. It’s up to you.