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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 13636

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (16:17): Like most members on this side of the House, I understand the value of small business. Ninety-seven per cent of the businesses in my electorate of Fowler qualify as small businesses—that is, 10,500 businesses. In the past a lot of these people would have been bricklayers, electricians—a whole host of things. They are required to register their business in order to maintain their employment but, nevertheless, small business and independent contractors are one of the fastest areas of growth, particularly in south-west Sydney where I come from.

One and a half thousand of these small businesses are truck drivers. They are independent contractors, owner drivers. They have set up their businesses. They have gone out like other businesspeople and borrowed capital to set up a business. I do not know if it has caught you by surprise, Mr Deputy Speaker Slipper, but it has taken a long drawn-out campaign by the Transport Workers Union and other people such as Lindsay Fox to draw attention to this particular category of small business.

I, together with other members in this place, sometimes go and visit the various truck stops we have in our electorates. I have got one down the road called Uncle Leo's. I go in there and have a cup of coffee and a sandwich with the fellas as they are negotiating a truckload of fuel to get themselves home to Queensland. They will go home to Queensland with a truckload of fuel. They are compromising everything: time and themselves with regard to their logbooks and other things. They are trying to make a quid out of their business. That is why people enter into businesses in the first place.

To date we have seen people's reluctance to grasp the significance of fair rates in the transport industry. These fair rates are not meant to apply to someone who is a day worker working for a trucking organisation; these are for the operators of small businesses.

This significant initiative was introduced by the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport today in the second reading of the road safety bill. It is designed to give these people a fighting chance at their business, to make sure they are paid fair rates. Compromise is occurring, which is affecting safety. About 250 deaths occur on the road each year involving heavy vehicles. An accident involving a heavy vehicle normally would have very significant consequences for not simply the drivers of those vehicles but also other road users.

Compromises are being made—compromises in respect of safety; compromises in respect of work practices; and compromises in respect to hours—and I have personally witnessed people negotiating a truckload of fuel to travel from Liverpool back to the Gold Coast, and that would be the cost of freight. If you want to divide up what the cost of freight is, I think it would be pretty cheap by the end of that run.

The other major thing that these truck drivers running their businesses complain bitterly to me about—I know they are not in the aviation industry—is the slot times they are given for arriving to unload their vehicles, and that time can change. They can sit around for anything up to 10 or 14 hours waiting for their slot time, so they become a mobile storage unit. They are out there with their 16-wheelers, with their refrigerated units keeping food cold, and all the rest of it, and they are not getting paid for that. They are given their slot time to arrive. If anything, we are taking an enormous step just in that alone in respect to small business.

I know that is not the tenor of this debate, which is focusing on what is occurring in the mining industry. Although I have a connection with mining, I am at a loss over this, as are most people in my electorate who do not have any connections with mining. I have had sons do very well out of working in the mining industry. A lot of young people have seen mining as not a bad way of life: getting involved, generating a lot of income over a short time and then going into another business. That is what my son did.

Mr Dutton: They can pay more tax.

Mr HAYES: What has occurred—the member for Dickson probably agrees with this because I know his electorate well—is we have negotiated with the biggest miners in the country. They have agreed on what the figure should be. They have agreed that they need to make a greater contribution to this country. We are talking about companies that make an after-tax profit of $75 million. We are not talking about someone who has the backside falling out of their pants, struggling to get down their shovel blade down a hole to dig a little deeper. We are talking to people who are making a $75 million after-tax profit. They are the ones who are going to be required to pay. That money will give us the ability to make adjustments to help small business.

I said that 95 per cent of businesses in my electorate are small businesses. Those people can buy a vehicle, whether it is a Commodore or Ford or some other type of vehicle, and apply to have the instant asset write-off of $6,000. We have to contrast that with what the opposition did in government. They had 12 years to look at this.

I was in small business when John Howard promised to cut small business red tape by 50 per cent in the first term of his government. Instead, what did the coalition do? They saddled businesses—

Ms Brodtmann interjecting

Mr HAYES: particularly small businesses—you are right, the member for Canberra—with GST. They certainly saddled it with a greater amount of red tape. I know the amount of work I had to do to find my way through a complex BAS. That is what they delivered to small business. They made it infinitely more difficult for small business to operate in that environment. It took Labor to make and deliver on commitments to small business. As I said at the outset, we know that the fastest growing area in our economy is small business and much of that is independent contractors. They are electricians, plumbers and bricklayers who now require an ABN to get onto various job sites—particularly in Sydney. They had to have an ABN, they had to become a small business, and that is how they got treated. Anyway, these businesses got on and I know many of them have employed apprentices locally. These businesses now have the opportunity to go out there and get that ute. They now have the opportunity to start to expand their business.

The mining tax is going to help facilitate the rise of superannuation from nine per cent to 12 per cent. That is a great dream for anybody in the workforce. I know that not many of those opposite necessarily reflect people in the workforce but we here do. We understand what it is for working people to have a sound retirement income at the end of their working lives. Moving superannuation to 12 per cent is a true Labor objective, one that we should be proud of delivering. But it does not just come, we have to make things work.

I understand it is difficult for those opposite. I understand that even as late as yesterday they were conflicted on this as part of their party room was going to support the superannuation rise. All except Andrew Robb, at least, were going to support this. They said they were going to support superannuation but they were going to oppose the mining tax. But when the legislation came here last night, I thought at best they would abstain from voting. They could not work it out. We had the Leader of the Opposition sleeping in the front row, being nudged in the ribs. We had the shadow Treasurer sitting at the table, not sure what call make. Then we had the member for Mackellar call for a division and they all voted no to superannuation. I do not know how they are going to explain that in their next round of newsletters. They opposed working Australians getting a genuine Labor objective of an adjustment to 12 per cent superannuation. (Time expired)