Legislation establishing the appointment of an Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (Ombudsman) has been referred by the Senate to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 11 August 2015. The Committee Chair is Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald and the AADA has been invited to provide a submission addressing issues that may be of relevance.
In the consultation period leading to the drafting of legislation and introduction of the bills, the AADA lodged two submissions which can be accessed at aada.asn.au. The Bills are the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bill 2015 and the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2015.
The Ombudsman has a number of powers and functions to give small businesses the help they need and to help Government policy makers better understand the concerns of small businesses. The Ombudsman has an advocacy and assistance function as well. Under the advocacy function the Ombudsman may monitor and report on the efficacy of industry codes of conduct and fair trading provisions and the behavior of regulators. The assistance function allows the Ombudsman to act as a concierge for dispute resolution.
Access to the services of the Ombudsman is limited by the definition of a small businesses to a business with fewer than 100 employees or having revenue of $5 million or less in the previous financial year.
AADA’s submission to the Senate Committee restated its position that the definition of small business should be based on the concept of ‘relative size’ where a significant imbalance of economic or market power exists. AADA also referred the Senate Committee to the Motor Vehicle Dealers and Repairers Act 2013 (NSW) (MVDR Act) that regulates the relationship between NSW motor vehicle dealers and manufacturers in dealing with contractual disputes and unjust conduct by a manufacturer.
Details of the Senate Inquiry can be accessed at http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Small_Biz_Ombudsman