Seven things you need to know about new small business minister Stuart Robert

By Lois Maskiell

Tuesday March 30, 2021

Stuart Robert
Stuart Robert. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Liberal minister Stuart Robert is the new Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business following a cabinet reshuffle announced yesterday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Robert would take over Michaelia Cash’s small business portfolio, after serving as the minister for government services for nearly two years.

With Morrison declaring Robert’s new role as “a critical area for the government’s economic strategy”, here’s seven things you need to know about the new Small Business Minister.

1. He is a close ally of the prime minister

Stuart Robert is reportedly a close ally of the Prime Minister and their relationship has endured for some years.

In a press conference on Monday, Scott Morrison lauded Robert’s achievements as minister for government services, saying “he can be relied upon to deliver the services that Australians rely on”.

2. Small business advocates support his appointment

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson has welcomed Robert’s appointment to a role he once held himself.

Billson said he is looking forward to working with the Minister “to help make Australia the best place to start and grow a business”.

“Minister Robert has a background in business and therefore has first-hand knowledge of what it takes to own and operate a growing company,” Billson said on Monday.

3. He has an MBA

Robert completed a Master of Business Administration as CQUniversity in 1997, after obtaining a Masters of Information Technology from Queensland University of Technology and Bachelor of Arts from the Australian Defence Force Academy.

He went to Rockhampton Grammar High School.

4. He worked in consulting before entering politics

Before starting his political career in 2013, Stuart Robert was the chief executive of GMT Consulting, a business consultancy based in Brisbane.

The member for Fadden has previously been assistant minister for defence, minister for human services, minister for veterans’ affairs, assistant treasurer, and minister for government services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

5. His career has not escaped controversy

Most recently, Robert was criticised for his involvement in establishing the controversial Robodebt scheme during his time as minister for government services. The scheme incorrectly calculated the debt of thousands of welfare recipients.

Robert defended Robodebt until it was found unlawful by Australian courts in 2020, which ordered the government to return $721 million in returned welfare payments.

In 2018, Robert’s expenses as assistant treasurer came under scrutiny, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison initiated an investigation into his personal internet bills.

Robert had been using up to $2,800 a month of taxpayer funds to cover internet bills at his home of Queensland’s Gold Coast. According to the ABC, he paid back nearly $38,000 to the government.

6. What the prime minister has said about his appointment

Questioned about Robert’s suitability for the ministerial promotion, Scott Morrison said he had done an “outstanding job” in his previous role.

“When someone does a good job … they show they can take on responsibility and get things done for Australians,” Morrison said in a press conference on Monday.

7. His plans as small business minister

In his new role, Robert has committed to help the government achieve its key priority to create more jobs.

“As Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, my priority will be to continue the comeback through building a workforce that can drive Australia’s prosperity,” he said in a statement.

“We also need to ensure the backbone of Australia’s economic prosperity — small and family business — are given every opportunity to thrive.”

This article is curated from our sister publication SmartCompany.


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