Kate Carnell is first small business ombudsman

- March 29, 2016 3 MIN READ

Kate Carnell will step down from her role as CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to become Australia’s first Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

“The Small Business Ombudsman will be able to make sure that where there are disputes, those disputes can be resolved without costly litigation,” small business Minster Kelly O’Dwyer said.

“So often, we hear from small businesses that when they have a dispute, often with a bigger business, they feel completely disempowered by that, and they don’t have the funds or capacity to take it to court. With our Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, we have someone who can ensure that those disputes are resolved without costly litigation and we can make sure there is a fair go for small business.”

Carnell has an impressive history; CEO of the ACCI, CEO of beyondblue, CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, ACT Chief Minister. Perhaps most importantly for small business owners, she started professional life as a pharmacist and owned and managed pharmacies for 20 years.

“It was a very, very competitive search process, and Kate was the most qualified person for that job. She understands what it’s like to work in small business, she understands what it’s like to hire people, she understands what it’s like when things aren’t working out necessarily with the people that have been hired. She understands how difficult it is when you risk your own capital to grow your business,” O’Dwyer said.

Bruce Billson, ex-Small Business Minister and current Federal Member for Dunkely, said that when he conceived the Ombudsman role and included it in the Coalition’s 2010 and 2013 small business election policies, he envisaged an individual with a “deep and enduring commitment to enterprising people and a comprehensive understanding of the workings of government.”

“I whole-heartedly commend Kate Carnell’s appointment as Australia’s first Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman and commend the Turnbull Government and Minister for Small Business/Assistant Treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer for their inspired selection.”

Tim Reed, MYOB CEO also welcomed the move on behalf of their 1.2 million small business customers.

“This is a significant endorsement by the Turnbull Government to the importance of small business to the Australian economy. It’s great to see the Government smoothing the way for SMEs, in particularly when it comes to dispute resolution.

“We know MYOB customers also want to see less red tape and changes to the burden of GST compliance. A role like this will be able to assist in ensuring the small business voice is better heard now and into the future.”

Peter Strong, CEO of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told KBB it’s a great win and that [|COSBOA] had been calling for an Ombudsman for the small business sector since 1977.

“We’re really pleased; Kate’s got a great CV – she’s headed up government, she’s headed up industry associations, she’s been the CEO of Beyond Blue and gets that small business people are also human beings and shouldn’t be treated the same as big business. When it comes to public service tender process, Kate will be able to go around and make sure the tender process is small business friendly. It should give the public service access to small business options if they feel they can tender for some work.”

The other important factor Strong mentions is dispute resolution. “Some small businesses get in disputes with government agencies but they’re too afraid to challenge it because they fear if they do, they won’t get work again.

“It’s great we now have this insider to make sure governments understand how to communicate and develop policies with us.”