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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 13632


Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (15:58): I rise today to talk about the difficulties facing small business in this world of increasing taxes that we live in today and to support the members for Dunkley and Hughes. Business is drowning in taxes and bureaucratic red tape. Small businesses have to contend with a lot of issues, but taxes are the forefront in terms of their survival. I refer to federal, state and local taxes. They all add to the bottom line, or detract from it, whatever the case may be, and in the last few years they have been detracting from the bottom line. Small businesses have to contend with corporate tax, land taxes, removal of the ETO, carbon cops and the ACCC, workers compensation, vehicle registration increases, workplace health and safety costs, rates, water and electricity and gas charges, insurance, payroll tax and any of the fees imposed by the federal and state governments, when they should be concentrating on market pressures, which is what being in business is all about. The types of businesses that will be slugged by a carbon tax are huge, especially in country areas. Labour costs are increasing, and small business is crying out under the weight of these taxes.

Let us go back to the start and talk about corporate tax. Not all small businesses are companies. Only one-third of businesses work under a company structure. Two-thirds work as mums and dads under their own trading name and that is about it, so they will not get a tax deduction from 30 per cent to 29 per cent. With the businesses that do work under a company structure, if they have $100,000 net profit they will save $1,000. What a deal! That will soon be swallowed up in other charges, I can tell you that.

Land tax is another issue. If you have a piece of land and the government decides to buy, rebuild or sell land adjoining your property and puts a lot of costs into that property, suddenly the value of your land goes up alongside your neighbour's land and you do not make an extra dollar but you pay land tax. This is an injustice. The removal of the enterprise tax offset has been spoken about by the members for Dunkley and Hughes, but it is a fact that this government will reap $180 million from small business.

An opposition member: That's a shame.

Mr O'DOWD: That is a shame. We do not know how this carbon cop in the ACCC is going to work; but, if they are going to impose legislation where a small business cannot put their prices above one per cent, what are we doing to small business? Do we want them to survive or do we not? I would like the government to explain how that is going to work and what power these carbon cops are going to have. As we stand now, union officials, workplace health and safety, carbon cops and every other cop can just walk into your business and walk straight over the top of you even though you own your own business. You do not own your own business. You have no control over who comes into your—

An opposition member: Red tape.

Mr O'DOWD: Yes. Workers compensation is always on the increase. I can tell you something about workers compensation. It is normally about three or four per cent; but, if you have an accident on your site, they will retrieve whatever money they spent paying the employee until you come back to that three or four per cent. But they do not give you a credit if you do not have an accident. I have been in business for 30 years. I have had one accident—and I am still paying dearly for that—but there is no credit for the other 29 years that never had an accident.

Vehicle registration is another sad story for all small business, especially truck owners. Take a B-double cattle transporting vehicle. These are real stories I tell here today. This happened at a place called Rolleston in my electorate. The whole town was flooded. They had water on the four roads going into Rolleston. He could not move his truck on the main roads for six months. He could not move his truck on the internal roads in the properties for nine months. But his registration for that vehicle was $26,000. He did not make one cent for nine months. This is what small business has to put up with.

The people in my electorate, where roads are very ordinary to say the least, have to pay a luxury tax on vehicles that are over about $69,000. They need a vehicle worth probably $80,000—for example, a Toyota LandCruiser—to get around these roads because a lesser vehicle will just fall to pieces, and yet they are hit with a luxury tax. This is not right.

Workplace health and safety have costs. This issue hits at the heart of small business. We tend to have to follow big business. As we go on, big business in the mines and in other areas of big industry around my area have a driver and a passenger in a ute. This is because, when that ute stops, they do not rely on the handbrake anymore. One person has to get out and chock the wheels. This is what is going on. This falls into a category that rubs off on small business. I witnessed myself at a hotel in Emerald that was on perfectly flat ground a car where all four wheels were chocked. So much for our handbrake system!

Rates are continuing to rise. There are not many council rates that go under CPI. Most of them are over CPI. This again reflects on the bottom line. We do not have to talk too much about water charges, electricity, gas, insurance—we know they go up every year. You can count on it. Payroll tax is a great incentive for business: if you go over a certain figure, you have to pay payroll tax. Superannuation of nine to 12 per cent comes directly out of the bottom line.

I think the Assistant Treasurer should concentrate more on a proper return from our superannuation funds. We all know that superannuation funds over the last 10 years have returned less than five per cent. For the last three years it has probably been a minus figure.

An opposition member: You get more in a bank account—or at the racecourse!

Mr O'DOWD: You do get more in a bank account and at the racecourse. Fees imposed by the federal government add to inflation. It is not small businesses putting their prices up; it is the government charges that create inflation, which then adds to the cost of the article and a lower bottom line for small business. I was in the hotel game. Since getting out of the hotel game hotels have been hit with a fee of around $15,000 in Queensland for no reason. A small hotel in a place like Walloon pays $15,000. So does the Hilton in Brisbane. How can that be?

Mr Ewen Jones: The state government needs the money—that's the reason.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): The member for Herbert does not appear to be in his seat.

Mr O'DOWD: And there is the red tape—you have to supply statistical information to governments and, if you do not fill out the statistics when they want you to, they will ring you up and do you over.

Mr Truss: Be unkind.

Mr O'DOWD: Yes, very unkind. We have to return respectability and cut out the red tape for small business. If we want them to survive we have to set the right parameters and then let them get on with doing the business they do best. If someone wants to do the paperwork and deal with the red tape, let the bureaucrats do it.