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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 5793

Mr BILLSON (4:09 PM) —This is where the opposition departs from the government’s position. The government has made precisely no case whatsoever as to why small employers should be fitted up with the payclerk obligations of administering this scheme. The government has not even attempted to address the very serious, genuine and heartfelt concerns of the small business community that it does not need to be in this role, it does not welcome this role and it sees no justification for this role. Moreover, it finds it bewildering that the Commonwealth would invest in setting up administrative and payment systems for the first six months of the operation of this scheme to be handled by the Family Assistance Office, not requiring small businesses to be the payclerk, and why it should then, having made that investment and established what in every respect is an adequate set of arrangements for the first six months, walk away from that taxpayer investment just to fit up small businesses with that responsibility. It has made no case for that whatsoever.

The only justification that could possibly be made is a very dubious and distasteful one, and that is that, having set up the administrative and payment systems that drop small business into a role it has no business being in, the opportunity to top up the payments that are part of the government system will become an obligation to top them up. The risks that small businesses face include the risks of noncompliance in the administration of this scheme, the impact on other operations and the direct expense of varying and updating their payroll and accounting systems. The government has also put forward unconvincing arguments about how these payments would reflect in payroll related obligations that may be present in terms of superannuation, payroll tax and workers compensation.

Those are all known risks they face—not to mention the regulatory and red tape burden that small business could well do without as many of them struggle to be viable enterprises in this difficult economic environment—but there is a bigger risk. No case whatsoever has been made to fit up small business with this obligation, but the real risk is that small business will then be fitted up with an obligation to top up these payments. All the systems are being set up to achieve that goal. I say to the government: shame on you for ignoring very considered and legitimate concerns raised by the small business community. Shame on you for not even attempting to make the case as to why this is necessary. Shame on you for investing taxpayers’ funding in a perfectly adequate set of arrangements administered by the Family Assistance Office which are going to be abandoned after six months with no justification whatsoever. I would urge you to be clear and very careful about how you use these tools that you are setting up.

The small business community and the coalition parties will rise as one to hold you to account and will no doubt point out how duplicitous this process has been if, shortly after it is in place, this payclerk role fitted up with the administered obligations becomes a requirement to top up these payments in recognition of the many views around this nation, including in the coalition, that this arrangement is inadequate and does not provide the level of support that families are looking for. The government will say, ‘We’ve heard that voice, and the employers can stump up the rest of the money,’ knowing that the administrative systems are in place. So we will oppose this on the voices in the House of Representatives. We will not hold you up in the Senate because we know your game. We are not about denying the rollout of this program. We have run the argument about why these provisions are unnecessary— (Time expired)