Review of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (CTH)

Tuesday 9 May 2017 @ 11.24 a.m. | Trade & Commerce

On 15 March 2017, the Minister for Small Business the Hon Michael McCormack announced a review into the operation of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman to mark its first year anniversary. According to the Minister, "the review will look at how effectively and efficiently the Ombudsman has undertaken the role of providing assistance and advocacy for Australian small businesses" and the final recommendations are due to the Government on 30 June 2017.

Background to the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman was established on 11 March 2016 under the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Act 2015 (Cth) (the Act). The Ombudsman replaces the previous Australian Small Business Commissioner. Ms Kate Carnell is the inaugural Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman. 

The functions of the Ombudsman under the Act are to:

  • Advocate for small business and family enterprises in relation to relevant legislation, policies and practices (the advocacy function);
  • To give assistance in relation to relevant actions if requested to do so (the assistance function); and
  • To perform any other function conferred on the Ombudsman by any Act or legislative instrument. 

The Ombudsman’s advocacy function involves research and inquiries into legislation, policies and practices affecting small business and family enterprises. Inquiries may be referred by the Minister or initiated by the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman has information-gathering powers in relation to all inquiries. The Ombudsman also contributes to inquiries by other agencies and contributes to developing national strategies on matters affecting small businesses and family enterprises. 

The Ombudsman’s assistance function allows the Ombudsman to receive and respond to requests for assistance in relation to small business and family enterprise matters that fall within the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers. 

Background to the Review

Under the Act, the Minister for Small Business must appoint a suitably qualified and independent person to conduct a review of the Ombudsman’s assistance function at least every four years. The first of these reviews must be completed, and a report provided to the Minister by 30 June 2017. A copy of this report must be presented before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of the Minister receiving it.

The review team, according to the Minister, is chaired by lead reviewer, Ms Su McCluskey, assisted by a secretariat. Ms McCluskey's current roles include Chairperson of Energy Renaissance, a Director of Australian Unity and a Director of the Foundation for Young Australians, and she is a former CEO of the Regional Australia Institute. She is a member of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration and is on the New South Wales Regulatory Policy Review Panel.

Terms of Reference for the Review

The Review considered the following questions:

ADVOCACY FUNCTION

  • Has the Ombudsman been effective as an advocate for small business and family enterprises?

ASSISTANCE FUNCTION

  • Has the Ombudsman been effective in providing assistance to small business and family enterprises?
  • Has any assistance given been effective for the operators of small business and family enterprises?
  • Has the Ombudsman effectively cooperated with, and referred matters to, government agencies?
  • Has the Ombudsman effectively managed requests for assistance in relation to disputes, including recommendations on alternative dispute processes?

OTHER MATTERS

  • Are there any challenges in identifying the position as an Ombudsman?
  • Are there any challenges or barriers impacting the Ombudsman’s effectiveness in undertaking the advocacy and assistance functions?

The reviewer will provide a final report of findings and recommendations to the Government on 30 June 2017.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.

Sources:

Australian Government Treasury - Review Website and Discussion Paper

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Act 2015 (Cth) as reproduced in TimeBase LawOne

Minister's Media Release - 15 March 2017

Related Articles:

Legislation hotline: 1800 077 088

FREE legislation news, delivered weekly.

Sign up now.

We love legislation. About us.

NEW information resources - great for training.

Access now.

Law One product page. Search national legislation.Point in Time product page. Search legislation by time period.