Rising chamber seeks to shake off ACT government cash

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CANBERRA Business Chamber CEO Dr Michael Schaper says the organisation has “begun to reduce” its reliance on ACT government funding, raising the question of how independent the city’s principal voice of business has been of government influence over recent years. 

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Dr Michael Schaper. Photo: Danielle Nohra

In releasing its annual report today (November 21), Dr Schaper – who took the chamber’s helm in January – says that the absence of government money would “allow us to remain a strong independent voice for the business sector.”

He says that the chamber conducted its first member survey in several years early in 2019, and describes the result as emphatic.

“Members want us to focus on advocacy to government, providing networking and social opportunities, and practical workplace relations assistance. So they’re the areas we are now focusing on.” 

Dr Schaper has led something of a renaissance of the chamber with the annual report showing a major improvement in its finances and membership over the past year. 

Key achievements are listed as: 

  • An operating surplus of $135,000 for the year ending June. 
  • Budget deficit eliminated and balance sheet now positive again.
  • A 10 per cent growth in membership numbers, to almost 600.
  • Five major events held with more than 1500 attendees. 
  • 8000 contacts listed on our database of regional local businesses.
  • More than 1500 phone calls and enquiries received by our workplace relations service advice lines.

“In addition, we have become the only state or territory chamber in the country that has diplomatic missions as direct members. Panama, Mexico and Russia have all joined in recent months, and we hope to welcome more in future,” he says.

“We have continued to deliver a number of key services such as inclusion in employment, trade assistance and the mature age workers program. 

A full copy of the annual report is here. 

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