The AADA has welcomed the opportunity by the Hon Bruce Billson MP, Minister for Small Business to provide input on the Government’s commitment to transform the Australian Small Business Commissioner into a Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (the Ombudsman).
The Ombudsman’s main purpose will be to facilitate Commonwealth-wide advocacy for smaller enterprises.
As part of the Government’s commitment to make this change, funding of more than $6 million will be contributed to the initiative. The Ombudsman will have a number of duties including Commonwealth-wide advocacy for small businesses and family enterprises as well as acting as a concierge for resolving disputes.
It is expected that the Ombudsman will also help contribute to the development of laws and regulations relating to small businesses along with providing information, resources and assistance for relevant industries.
As part of this scheme, a discussion paper on how the Ombudsman should best deliver benefits to Australian small businesses was released. Parties were invited to make comment on the proposed Ombudsman’s role based on a number key responsibilities outlined by the Government.
The AADA made a submission to the Treasury before the closing date of May 23, advocating for an Ombudsman which will help support the 2500 new-car dealers around Australia operating under around 4000 franchise agreements.
As part of its submission, the AADA contended that the inconsistency and complexity of definitions of small business found in income tax and other legislation, should not be carried over to limit the Ombudsman as advocate. As such, the AADA believes that access to the Ombudsman by a business should be based on the relative size of that business in commercial dealings with a larger party. This will lead to a fairer and more inclusive approach for businesses, such as Dealers, whose operations are comparatively ‘small’ when judged against the size of the global motor vehicle manufacturer.
Other considerations as part of the AADA submission relate to a level of confidentiality built into the Ombudsman framework. This, it is hoped, will enable the Ombudsman to receive and advocate on issues pertaining to the meanings of the misuse of power, unconscionable conduct, obligation to act in good faith and acting in legitimate commercial interests.
Updates on the progress of this issue will be uncovered in upcoming issues.