Bruce Billson to replace Kate Carnell as Small Business Ombudsman

Bruce Billson

Source: AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Former small business minister Bruce Billson will reportedly replace Kate Carnell as the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman next month.

According to the Australian Financial Review, the former Liberal minister and Victorian MP will be appointed to the role by cabinet in coming weeks.

If appointed, Billson will become the second small business ombudsman, and will likely be appointed for a five-year term. Carnell was appointed as the first ombudsman in early 2016, with her tenure due to end on March 10 this year.

Billson left politics at the 2016 election, after losing the small business portfolio, and was appointed as executive chair of the Franchise Council of Australia.

He was later found to have been receiving a salary for the position before leaving Parliament, and subsequently was censured by Parliament for failing to disclose the salary on his compulsory register of members’ interests.

Leading small business groups have previously called for a “high calibre individual” to replace Carnell, who has a strong track record of advocating for the small business community and making key recommendations to government.

Writing for SmartCompany in December, Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, said the next ombudsman must be an effective communicator who understands the small business community and who is “willing to fearlessly stand up to government when needed”.

Labor’s small business spokesperson Matt Keogh has already claimed Billson should not be the next ombudsman.

“It is entirely inappropriate for this government to appoint someone as Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman who was censured by the Parliament,” he told the AFR.

“This appointment shows both Scott Morrison’s disregard for standards and for ensuring an effective small business advocate at the national level. The Morrison government’s failure to announce a successor to date is leaving small business behind.”

SmartCompany has contacted Billson and Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash for comment.

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