The ASBFEO was established in 2016 to provide small businesses and family enterprises with a conduit to government and to make it easier for them to access assistance. Specifically, its intended functions are to:
- advocate for small businesses and family enterprises in relation to relevant legislation, policies and practices; and
- assist small businesses and family enterprises in relation to disputes and other relevant actions if requested to do so.
These are in addition to any other functions conferred on it by any Act or legislative instrument. Under the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Act 2015 (the Act), the Minister for Small Business is required to initiate independent reviews of the ASBFEO’s assistance function. This is the first independent review of the ASBFEO’s functions under the Act and was required to be completed by 30 June 2017. The ASBFEO is required to be independently reviewed no later than every four years thereafter. The independent review was led by Ms Su McCluskey with support from a secretariat provided by Nous. The key questions for the review were how effectively and efficiently the ASBFEO has undertaken its functions since its establishment in March 2016 and how these functions can be improved. Appendix A includes the full terms of reference for the review. Stakeholder consultations were held with Commonwealth and state/territory agencies whose functions impact small businesses and family enterprises, as well as with state small business commissioners and industry bodies. To maintain privacy, stakeholder contributions are referenced in general terms throughout the report. Appendix B includes a full list of these stakeholders. The review also considered data and documentation that Treasury and the ASBFEO provided.