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.
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:
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.
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.
The Review considered the following questions:
The reviewer will provide a final report of findings and recommendations to the Government on 30 June 2017.
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