Small business ombudsman Kate Carnell backs banking tribunal

The Australian, August 24, 2016:

A royal commission into the banking sector would not help businesses struggling with banking disputes, small business ombudsman Kate Carnell says, as she urges “immediate action” from government to prevent a stifling effect on economic growth.

Amid a political debate over how best to respond to community concerns about the sector, the former head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says bank-related complaints are a key concern of small businesses, many of whom struggle with revaluations of businesses and the impairment of loans.

Arguing in favour of a tribunal that involves the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, as advocated by Coalition backbenchers, Ms Carnell said government intervention was needed to resolve disputes.

“We are very happy to be a part of any solution,” she said. “We have virtually royal commission powers (and) the cap­acity to require banks to attend hearings and provide information and documents. I’ve held extensive consul­tations with the small business sector in recent months, and bank-related complaints are high on their list of grievances — so much so that in my view, without an increased level of accountability, some banking practices certainly have the capacity to stifle the growth potential of many small businesses in this country.”

Ms Carnell said Labor’s proposed royal commission may allow small business owners to tell their story but would not help save their businesses, which could be “down the gurgler” by the time the process was complete.

Malcolm Turnbull has indicated support for a tribunal that could hear from individuals and small business operators, to deal with banking disputes.