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Almost 100,000 Australian small businesses covered by three mandatory codes of conduct will benefit from $2.7 million worth of support for early intervention in disputes with other businesses in the same industry.

The funding would allow the introduction of early intervention dispute resolution services for businesses operating under the Franchising Code of Conduct and the Horticulture Code of Conduct, Small Business Minister Craig Emerson said.

Dr Emerson said early intervention would save time and money for businesses in dispute, and is part of the Government’s commitment to strong economic management.

This investment will also fund continuing early dispute resolution for businesses operating under
the Oilcode, which covers petroleum refiners/marketers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers.

Existing formal mediation services will continue to be provided for businesses covered by the Franchising Code, Horticulture Code, Oilcode and a voluntary code, the Produce and Grocery Industry Code of Conduct.

“We want to help small businesses unfortunate enough to find themselves in dispute by providing fast, inexpensive dispute resolution processes,” Dr Emerson said.

“The vast majority of people who get tangled up in a dispute want to get it settled as quickly as possible – that’s why we have allocated this money to provide dispute resolution services.

“Businesses in dispute want to sort it out so they can get on with the job.”

The early intervention services will allow parties to discuss, and hopefully resolve, disputes with a convenor before going to formal mediation, which can be costly, stressful and time-consuming.

By making a phone call to the dispute resolution service, businesspeople will be able to informally talk through their concerns at an early stage and receive guidance on what their next steps might be in resolving their dispute.

The procurement and delivery of dispute resolution services for businesses covered by the codes will be combined to simplify administration and increase efficiency.

The mandatory codes are prescribed under the Trade Practices Act and administered by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, which will each retain policy responsibility for their respective code.