FORMER Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), Natalie James, was named Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA)’s Small Business Champion at the recent Vodafone National Small Business Summit.

Ms James was presented the award by Peter Strong, CEO of COSBOA and Mark McKenzie, ACAPMA CEO and chair of COSBOA, for her outstanding support to the small business community.

Mr Strong said over the past five years, Ms James had remained committed to removing red tape in workplace regulation, proving instrumental in regulating new penalty rates for small businesses and their employees. She also facilitated the launch of a dedicated helpline for small businesses to access workplace relations advice. 

“Usually, we look for people that champion a specific agenda or policy, not only in the small business industry, but across the board; however, this year’s pick was a very obvious one,” Mr McKenzie said. “This year we are giving it to a regulator.

“When you are an advocate, you look for a cooperative approach with regulators, ones that have enough punch to scare your membership in terms of managing the industry, but who also show a willingness to work with you. That’s why we chose Natalie James,” Mr McKenzie said.

COSBOA acknowledged Ms James’ “tireless work” during her time as Fair Work Ombudsman, changing the approach of the organisation to have a better understanding of small business owners and the way they operate.

Natalie James said it was a pleasant surprise to be acknowledged by COSBOA.

“I was genuinely surprised when Peter called to offer me this award, because I didn’t think of myself as a small business champion,” Ms James said. “Ultimately, what we all want and what is good for society is sustainable businesses, which means compliant businesses.

“It’s not fair for compliant businesses to be competing against those who aren’t doing the right thing, particularly those who are deliberately not doing the right thing as a business model and profiting from exploiting vulnerable workers.

“So it was incidental that I was also supporting businesses, especially small businesses, who are so very reliant on sources of advice from industry associations and government.”

Mr Strong said, “Ms James was always willing to listen; she used her position to influence change and was supportive and available to work with COSBOA and small businesses.

“The creation of the Small Business Helpline has been instrumental in providing advice on workplace relations.

“For four years, Natalie presented at the National Small Business Summit, speaking openly to small business leaders and representatives.We wish Natalie the very best in her next move and are proud to name her as a champion of small business for 2018,” Mr Strong said.

Extracted from Business Acumen