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Wednesday, 1 June 2005
Page: 20

Mr TUCKEY (10:20 AM) —I had been listed at one stage to speak in this debate and, having already spoken in the public servant debate, I thought it was appropriate to let the House get on with its business. Having discovered that that is not going to be the case—and even the Leader of the Opposition has entered the debate—I return to look at these amendments which are being dealt with at the consideration in detail stage. I was interested to hear the member for Hunter make the point in his speech that there are many good employers in small business. I have repeatedly said in this place and at doorstops over the years that most, if not nearly all, small business people do not wake up in the morning thinking, ‘I wonder who I can sack this morning.’ They see their staff as a very valuable asset in their business operations. For example, I had in my electorate a machinery dealer with tears in his eyes explaining how he and his wife would carry on their business in the drought but not knowing where he would get his staff from when things turned up again because they would all have to leave.

I am astounded at the debate on issues such as unfair dismissal. Let me overcome a myth: an employer of 100 people in this day and age of casual employment is not a big employer. The average farmer in my electorate would not have one full-time employee but in a year would have 20, 30 or 40 casual employees—shearers and others who come in at different times of the year—and they would be subject to this superannuation requirement. If a shearing team comes onto a farmer’s property and it is not run by a contractor who is a full-time employer and who sends your money into a single account, the farmer is obliged to, amongst other things, pay superannuation to each and every one of the workers involved—be they shed hands, shearers or whatever.

I have taken a great interest in this aspect of the responsibility of an employer to provide choice. As I said the other day when I spoke about the first union super, the issue of portability was not considered. Shearers wrote to me, saying: ‘I shear this time of the year; I am a truck driver that time of the year. I have now got three or four super funds and I have no control to insist that it be aggregated to one fund.’

There is no need for these amendments. As the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer pointed out, having heard the rhetoric of unfair dismissal when every employer was a crook, we suddenly heard the Leader of the Opposition come in here and say words to the effect, ‘Employers and employees get along so well in small business.’ Of course they do, but the opposition better make up its mind. Either they are a mob of crooks or they are very decent people, and I am of the second position.

My wife is a small business person. Having sighted the documents she has received and having—as I am sure the minister is prepared to admit—questioned the minister in the party room on some of the administrative details, the minister satisfied me that, for instance, you do not have to send a cheque to five, 10 or 50 different superannuation funds when the shearing team comes on your property. You can send one cheque to a nominated insurer, who will have the responsibility, on receipt of a list, to distribute the funds.

The opposition has not been standing up in here saying, ‘Look, there might be other minor administrative arrangements you should consider under regulation, such as the issuance of a plastic card.’ I think the super funds might find it good idea in due course to send their contributors a card. But we cannot look past the simple fact that union super is a huge area; it originated in award super. The 50 per cent of preselection voters have sent a message to these people, ‘For a short period, we would like you to like small business,’ and use that as the excuse to protect our big business operation. (Time expired)