Comment sought on Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman

In keeping with its election commitment, the Federal Government has taken the first step in delivering a Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman that it says will have “real power” to represent small business owners.

In keeping with its election commitment, the Federal Government has taken the first step in delivering a Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman that it says will have “real power” to represent small business owners. 

That first step is the release of a discussion paper detailing the government’s vision of establishing a single entrypoint for small businesses, providing an easy way to find out about services and programmes. This will include the establishment of a Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman. As an advocate to Government, the Ombudsman will help to minimise compliance burdens and reduce red tape so that the government can get out of the way and let small businesses get on with their job.

As part of its key responsibilities the Ombudsman will be a:

•  Concierge for dispute resolution;
•  Commonwealth wide advocate for small businesses and family enterprises;
•  Contributor to the development of small business friendly Commonwealth laws and regulations; and
•  A single entry point agency through which Commonwealth assistance and information regarding small business can be accessed.

The discussion paper, which is open for comment from small business owners until May 23 2014, includes options for the scope of the Ombudsman’s functions and powers and seeks to identify possible areas of duplication, gaps or alignment with services and functions that are delivered through other governments, industry bodies or private providers.

“Small businesses have told us that they often find it difficult to know where to go to get assistance,” Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson said. “We want to give time poor small businesses the best chance of success by reducing the time spent accessing information and advice, resolving disputes and having their voices heard.

“Small business can really help us with ideas on how the Ombudsman role can best meet their needs. The Government looks forward to receiving comments on the discussion paper.”

The discussion paper can be found on this Treasury website, and all small business owners are encouraged to register their feedback on it. The Treasury intends to publish a summary document of the consultation findings in mid-2014. It is envisaged additional consultation on draft legislation for the Ombudsman will take place later in 2014.

This initial step from the government has been supported by a number of industry groups, with Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) COO John Osborn saying the absence of a small business Ombudsman with teeth has been a frustration to small business people for a long time.

“Small Business is particularly happy to see the government’s plan to give the Ombudsman stronger powers to help resolve disputes, and a capacity to shape policy at the Commonwealth level while fighting red-tape,” Osborn said. “Small business will also benefit from a ‘one-stop-shop’ single point of entry where Commonwealth assistance for small business can be accessed.”

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