Business lobbyist becomes first small business ombudsman

The minister for small business, Kelly O’Dywer, has appointed Kate Carnell, a business lobbyist, to the newly created role of small business ombudsman for a five year period. Carnell is known for being an advocate for cutting penalty rates.

According to Inside Retail, O’Dwyer said the selection will be 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.”

ARA (Australian Retailer’s Association) executive director, Russell Zimmerman, deemed the appointment an “excellent choice”.

“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… Kate is a staunch supporter of small business, with a wealth of experience, having owned her own pharmacy, and held CEO roles at the Australian Food and Grocery Council, Beyond Blue, and Chief Minister of the ACT, among others,” he said.

Carnell will head up a small team and has been allocated a budget of approximately $6 million to serve small and medium sized enterprises with employees under 100 people. A Fairfax Media report states that the new ombudsman’s role had two major functions; to advocate for small and business, and to be a channel to government via single point of entry.

“It’s also to focus on alternate dispute mechanisms, so small businesses don’t get caught up in lengthy and expensive court cases,” said Carnell.

“I will be working with organisations like the ACCI (Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry), to ensure they have a voice in government. So in some ways it’s similar to what I’ve been doing, as an advocate for small to medium business, but inside the tent.”

O’Dwyer said Carnell would offer significant experience and expertise to the role, and will be an appropriate voice for small Australian businesses and family enterprises.

Carnell leaves the ACCI just under two years with the major business lobby group and will begin in her new position on March 11

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