Australia’s first small business ombudsman named

Kate Carnell, the former CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), has been appointed the first small business and family enterprise ombudsman.

Carnell, who had been at the helm of the ACCI since May 2014, replaces former small business commissioner, Mark Brennan. Carnell will start in her new role from March for a five-year period, heading up a small team that will offer a range of services to small and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Carnell previously served as CEO of Beyond Blue for two years and prior to that was head of the Australian Food and Grocery Council for four years, from 2008 until 2012. Carnell was also Chief Minister of the ACT from 1995 to 2000.

Commenting on the announcement, Minster for Small Business Kelly O’Dwyer said: “Today’s appointment is a major win for small business owners who will have access to advice and support, and an independent advocate to ensure the government creates the right conditions for small businesses to grow”.

Carnell’s appointment as the first small business ombudsman has been welcomed by the small business community and the retail industry.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman said Carnell’s appointment to the newly created position is an excellent choice, and commended Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Small Business Minister Kelly Dwyer on their selection of Carnell for the important post.

“Kate has done a fantastic job over the last couple of years in her role as CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and we look forward to continuing our relationship with her as small business ombudsman,” Zimmerman said.

The Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA) declared the appointment of Carnell as a huge victory for small business.

COSBOA CEO Peter Strong said: “We have been calling for an Ombudsman for our sector since 1977 when our association was first formed by concerned small business supporters. No other group has called for such a position until recently, so it seems that patience does pays off.

“Kate Carnell is a great selection and will help develop laws that specifically help and not hinder small business. With her experience in politics as an ex Chief Minister of the ACT and, running her own small business, we believe Ms Carnell is perfectly positioned to understand and represent the concerns of the small business community.”

Like COSBOA, Carnell also supports an effects test with Strong commenting: “The recent decision by the Abbott government to shelve an effects test in competition law is a great example of how big business is in control. However, now with Kate Carnell in her new role we can expect an internal bureaucratic fight, while never even, at least the interests of small business are being represented.”

National Retail Association CEO Trevor Evans said: “This appointment is a major win for small retail businesses who will now have access to an independent advocate who will ensure the government creates the best conditions for the growth of small businesses,” Mr Evans said.

“We believe Ms Carnell’s accomplishments, which include running her own highly successful business, becoming a respected voice of authority as a media commentator, and developing a reputation for fairness and balance during her tenure as ACT Chief Minister, make her the perfect fit for the newly created, five-year role.

“We’re pleased the government has acknowledged the significant contribution small businesses make toward the Australian economy by creating this important position, one that give tens of thousands of small businesses in Australia the chance to be heard.”

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