Exclusive: Small Business Ombudsman’s impartiality questioned

Exclusive: Small Business Ombudsman’s impartiality questioned

Accusations of political bias and interference have been levelled against the Small Business Ombudsman in light of her strong condemnation of a political proposal.

As reported by My Business recently, the federal opposition suggested that it could push for legislation to peg the minimum wage to the national median wage.

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell publicly criticised the suggestion, labelling it as “a war on small business” that would “savage” Australian SMEs.

Such strong language prompted accusations that Ms Carnell and the ASBFEO are demonstrating political bias against the opposition.

The accusations have particular resonance given that it was the current Coalition government that established the ASBFEO in 2016 and appointed Ms Carnell to the role.

“Since when is it in the brief of an Ombuds‘person’ to make political comments using such highly emotive language,” a My Business reader complained.

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“It is quite apparent who her puppet master is.”

Ms Carnell refuted the claims of bias, telling My Business she merely wanted to highlight the dangers of having any political party or interested party taking control of the minimum wage away from the independent umpire, i.e. the Fair Work Commission.

“My office has a legislative requirement to act on behalf of small business. So the office of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman by legislation advocates on behalf of small businesses and family enterprises to ensure legislation, regulation and policies of all sides of government are small business friendly,” she said.

“We’ve got an independent system that takes evidence, that looks at a whole range of things, and sets the minimum wage annually. So what is wrong with our system [that would require drastic change]?

“I think the worst thing we could ever do is have a situation where politicians set these sorts of things – that’s the reason it was moved into an independent entity quite a long time ago, because you don’t want these sorts of things politicised.”

Exclusive: Small Business Ombudsman’s impartiality questioned
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