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Thursday, 19 October 2006
Page: 73

Mr KEENAN (2:21 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer outline to the House how small business will benefit from reforms to trade practices law?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Stirling for his question. I can tell him that shortly before two o’clock today the Senate passed amendments to the trade practices law, which will mean that today is a great day for 1.2 million small businesses throughout Australia. These reforms will make it easier for small business to notify and collectively bargain. They will make it simpler and less costly. They will increase the powers of the ACCC, giving it the ability to search premises and seize evidence. These reforms will also increase fines for anti competitive behaviour so that the fine can be three times the economic gain a corporation could make through breaching the act.

These reforms have been supported by all the significant small business organisations—for example, COSBOA, whose CEO, Tony Steven, said recently:

The cooperation between the many sectors of small business and the government is at its highest level.

Unfortunately, the Labor Party voted against these reforms twice in the House and twice in the Senate, and they brought truth to the claim of the Leader of the Opposition that the ALP has never claimed to be a party of small business. His 6PR claim that the ALP has never claimed to be part of small business has been borne out.

Mr Fitzgibbon —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. That is untrue and the Treasurer is misleading the House.

The SPEAKER —Order! That is not a point of order.

Mr COSTELLO —The Labor Party had plenty of opportunity to vote for small business, and it voted against these bills twice in the House and twice in the Senate. Labor is not the party of small business; Labor is the party of big unions and big union leaders. The World Bank’s latest publication, Doing Business 2007, ranked Australia eighth out of 175 economies in the world for doing business. We were the second-best country in the world for the ease of starting a business, third for the ease of accessing credit, seventh for enforcing contracts and ninth for employing workers.

I cannot let this opportunity go past without paying acknowledgement to the Minister for Small Business and Tourism for all the work she did in relation to these reforms; she did a fabulous job. I also acknowledge the wonderful work Senator Boswell did in the Senate and, indeed, the constructive work Senator Fielding did in getting the legislation through the Senate after 12 months of Labor Party delay—a great day for small business.

Mr Fitzgibbon interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Hunter!

Mr COSTELLO —It is great to see the coalition again standing up for small business against the Australian Labor Party.