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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 8964

Senator RYAN (Victoria) (12:20): The opposition will not be speaking for long on the Business Names Registration (Application of Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011. It is a bill to address some areas in a piece of legislation considered earlier by the Senate. I point out that through facilitating the passage of this bill, while in no way supporting the guillotine measures of the government and the Greens that were debated in this chamber earlier today, this is an example of how the opposition is being constructive in facilitating the government's legislative program.

In the last debate regarding this particular policy initiative, we highlighted that there were flaws relating to the transitional provisions in the last bill. These flaws were pointed out by stakeholders and they were reflective of this government's failure to address the detail on so many issues, particularly on the regulatory and red tape fronts. The coalition has supported the national business names registration regime, and I understand it is pending legislation in all states and territories to refer the relevant authority to the Commonwealth to impleĀ­ment this particular piece of legislation. This is a rare attempt from this government to reduce red tape. Sadly, while the government talks a great deal about reducing red tape and compliance burdens upon business, its actions betray its true performance and, I contend, its true agenda. We knew of the so-called 'one in, one out' promise that was made prior to the 2007 election, which has, since prior to the last election, become '200 in, one out'.

The national OH&S regime draft that came out earlier this year required tens of thousands of businesses in my home state of Victoria to develop a paper based evacuation plan. Jim of Jim's Mowing apparently needed to have paperwork to show him how to get out of the garage in an emergency. As we have seen in so many cases, it betrayed a lack of understanding by this government of the burden that such compliance places upon small and medium business and family business. Common sense simply does not prevail with this government. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has recently highlighted how the Fair Work Act has increased costs for business, including small and medium enterprises and family businesses—so much for the promise that no business nor worker would be worse off. But these are debates for another time.

The opposition will support the passage of this bill to correct the errors regarding the transitional provisions in the first bill. We are here because the government did not listen. We hope that the government has got the bill right this time. We hope that the government addresses the concerns we raised in the earlier debate on this policy initiative, particularly with respect to having geographical identifiers for existing businesses with similar names. There may be a plumber in Melbourne that goes by the name of John Smith Plumbing. I would venture to say there may well be a John Smith Plumbing elsewhere in Australia. We do not yet have a series of protocols about how such conflicts are going to be managed, particularly without additional burdens being placed upon small business. The last thing we would want to see is more compliance or red tape placed upon businesses with similar names, who only face those issues because of this particular policy initiative.

We also lack further information on what process will be put in place to resolve applications for business names that may be similar to existing business names. Again our concern is that, with the track record of this government, we will see the processes create increased red-tape and compliance costs for small and medium enterprises seeking to use this new facility. We urge the government to take the time—they have got until March next year—to make sure that any additional processes are actually resolved by the government and by bureaucrats, rather than doing as they have done in so many other cases and actually forcing more and more work onto the small and medium sized business people of Australia. We hope that the resolution to these issues is smooth. We hope it is quick. We will be keeping a watchful eye on the government regarding the implementation of this initiative.