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Wednesday, 14 September 2005
Page: 74

Mr BROADBENT (2:25 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Is the Treasurer aware of recent international reports on the ease of doing business in Australia? What reforms would improve opportunities and what are the barriers to those reforms?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for McMillan for his question. Yesterday the World Bank released a publication entitled Doing business in 2006: creating jobs. It ranked 155 economies around the world on the basis of 10 indicators. Of those 155 economies, it ranked Australia as the sixth-best business-friendly economy in the world. There were five in front of Australia: New Zealand, Singapore, the US, Canada and Norway. There were 149 behind Australia, including such economies as the UK, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany.

Australia ranked very well on starting a business, which was the second easiest in Australia of anywhere in the world; on getting credit, where we ranked very well; and on business taxes. The survey found that a medium sized company in Australia had to spend 107 hours and pay 37 per cent of gross profit in taxes. The OECD average was 192 hours, paying 46.1 per cent of profit in taxes.

Areas where Australia could improve its business environment are in securing rights to property, investor protection, and hiring and firing workers. That is what this government proposes to do to improve industrial relations and make Australia an even better place to do business.

I am asked what the barriers to reform in Australia are. The largest barrier to reform in Australia is the Australian Labor Party.

Mr Tanner interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Melbourne!

Mr COSTELLO —The Australian Labor Party is opposing industrial relations reform and it is opposing welfare to work reform, like it opposed the introduction of broad based indirect tax, balancing the budget, reducing debt and the Australian monetary policy.

Mr Tanner interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Melbourne is warned!

Mr COSTELLO —Members may wonder why the Australian Labor Party stands against reform. I understand that an important publication is coming out this weekend, written by the former leader of the Labor Party. According to last night’s 7.30 Report, the author of that learned tome wrote a letter to a Labor backbencher recently which said:

The numerous snakes, freaks ... and sewer rats in the caucus have had their say—

Mr Tanner —He did not have dogs on the list. Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This is entirely irrelevant to the question that was asked by the member for McMillan. I urge you to bring the Treasurer—

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Melbourne will resume his seat. The Treasurer is in order.

Mr COSTELLO —He goes on to say:

A lot of people will be unhappy about the truth but quite frankly I couldn’t give a rat’s ... about them.

He says to this backbencher—listen to this:

Good luck in the future with your work and thanks again for your support while I was leader of that thing. Kind regards, Mark Latham.

‘That thing’ is the description of the modern Labor Party given by the former Labor leader—‘that thing’. It is ‘that thing’ that stands against reform in Australia. It is ‘that thing’ which has opposed every step that we have taken. It is ‘that thing’ which is stopping a competitive business environment. Let me say, Australia would be much better off without ‘that thing’.