Kate Carnell named small business ombudsman

Former ACT chief minister Kate Carnell, who has held the position of CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry since 2014, has been appointed as Australia’s first Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

She will take up the role on March 11 for a five-year term.

The former CEO of beyondblue, the Australian Food and Grocery Council and the Australian General Practice Network is a pharmacist by profession and was the first female to become the national vice-president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. She brings extensive experience and knowledge to the role of Ombudsman, having run her own small businesses for 15 years before becoming ACT chief minister.

Minister for Small Business Kelly O’Dwyer says the 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.

“The Government acknowledges small businesses make a substantial contribution to Australia’s economy, with over two million small businesses generating around a third of economic output,” she said.

“I congratulate Ms Carnell on her full-time appointment and trust she will make an outstanding contribution to ensure that small businesses and family enterprises can thrive.”

National Retail Association CEO Trevor Evans praised the Government for recognising Ms Carnell’s wide-ranging achievements in the business sector and agreed with Ms O’Dwyer that the appointment represented “a major win for small business”.

“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,” he said.

Council of Small Business Australia CEO Peter Strong said Ms Carnell’s appointment was a “great selection” and he anticipated improvement around communications and process for small business as well as for dispute resolution.

“For too long the likes of Treasury, Wesfarmers, big business associations and others who are supporting old ideologues or vested interest have ruled the roost,” he said. “The recent decision by the Abbott government to shelve an effects test in competition law is a great example of one huge business, Wesfarmers, getting its way at the expense of the economy. With Kate Carnell in the new role, we expect the internal bureaucratic fight, while never even, now will be more willing.”

Ms Carnell will head up a small team that will offer a range of services to businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

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