AUSTRALIAN family farms may soon be classified as small businesses by the federal government, with the creation of a new ombudsman.
The introduction of an Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has been hailed as "good news" for Australian family farms, the majority of which are also small businesses, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said in a statement released today.
The contribution made by family farms in Australia depended on a strong understanding of their unique role at all levels of government, according to Mr Joyce.
Small Australian businesses, including family farms, will benefit from this new advocate at federal level, to better inform policy development and dispute resolution, he said.
In 2014, the International Year of the Family Farm, Mr Joyce produced a burst of superlatives when speaking to media about the role of Australian family producers.
The media event was hosted in October on the Morrison family property, “Mt Campbell”, Royalla, NSW, just south of Canberra.
At the event, Mr Joyce said the fifth-generation farming enterprise – which started in the 1860s and today produces cattle and fat lambs –typified the Australian family farm his government is working to ensure reaches the next generation and beyond, though better farmgate returns.
“Family farms are the cornerstone of Australian agriculture,” he said.
“They are emblematic as to how we see ourselves as a nation.
“They’re the group of people, when things are going tough, that manage to lock everything down, to live without (and) to go without so they can see the better times coming.”
Mr Joyce predicted increased export markets, with government ensuring farmers were not exploited in those markets, as a key methods to increase farmgate returns.
Consultation period open
“Expanding the powers of the Australian Small Business Commissioner to become a Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman is one more way that we are ensuring the development of farm-friendly Commonwealth laws and regulations,” Mr Joyce said this week.
An exposure draft of legislation establishing the Ombudsman has been released for public consultation, outlining the role's functions and powers as a Commonwealth-wide advocate for small businesses and family enterprises.
“The Ombudsman will be given real powers to deliver broader benefits for small businesses and to ensure that disputes brought forward are resolved in accordance with the facts,” Mr Joyce said.
“I encourage anyone with an interest in this role to get involved in the consultation process.”
The consultation process closes on Tuesday, April 7. Full details are available on the Treasury website.
- With Colin Bettles.