Kate Carnell provides insights into her new role as the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman:
I was honoured to be appointed to the role of Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) earlier this year.
The role of the ASBFEO is to advocate for small businesses and family enterprises, to provide access to dispute resolution services to assist with the resolution of disputes, and to ensure that government policies take into account the needs of small businesses and family enterprises. Family enterprises make up 70 per cent of all businesses in Australia – they are absolutely vital for growing our economy. I am excited to be given the opportunity to work with organisations such as Family Business Australia to improve the business environment for both small businesses and family enterprises. My focus will be to listen and talk to businesses and to be a strong advocate for them. In particular, I want to work with federal departments to reduce red tape, and ensure that laws and regulations are appropriate for small businesses and family enterprises.
The ASBFEO expands on the responsibilities of the former Office of the Australian Small Business Commissioner. The major difference is the addition of legislative powers which gives the ASBFEO the ability to:
- conduct ‘own motion’ research and inquiries
- work cooperatively with other arms of government to develop national strategies
- contribute to inquiries and review proposals, and
- take steps to promote best practice
As per our legislation, my office is able to assist small businesses with fewer than 100 employees, or those with revenue of $5 million or less for the previous financial year.
The establishment of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Act 2015 marks the first time that ‘family enterprise’ has been included in the title of an Act of Parliament in Australia, or anywhere else in the world. This is a significant step in acknowledging the importance of family enterprises to the Australian economy.
My office will look to tackle issues such as payment terms. Many small businesses and family enterprises experience difficulty with cash flow when there is a long time between invoicing and payment.
It is issues such as these where my office may choose to conduct inquiries to assess the impact on small businesses and family enterprises. We can then look at ways to improve the business environment.
My previous experience as a small business owner, and working in industry associations representing small businesses and family enterprises, has given me an appreciation for the issues faced by the sector, and we want to hear from you.
My office has recently opened a formal consultation period to find out from small businesses, family enterprises and representative associations what the key issues are when running a business, and what they want us to focus on as their advocate.
My office has developed a discussion paper to get the conversation started about what you want from this role. I hope to hear as many of your views as possible to generate strong discussion and debate.
To support the consultation period, my office has launched thinkBIGsmallTALK, an online interactive platform for submitting your ideas. The platform is available on the ASBFEO website at www.asbfeo.gov.au.
The formal consultation period concludes on 30 June 2016, and we will look to publish our first advocacy agenda and forward work plan reflecting the results of our discussions with the sector.
Beyond the consultation period, my office would like to continue to hear from small businesses and family enterprises about what they think we could be doing to better support them.
I encourage all small businesses and family enterprises to see myself and my office as their conduit to government.
To find out more about the ASBFEO, visit www.asbfeo.gov.au. If you need assistance or help to resolve a business dispute, contact us on 1300 650 460.