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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 5829

Mr BILLSON (11:00 AM) —Minister, we were just discussing some parts of the industry portfolio, so I will come back to the R&D tax credit, some stuff on the Automotive Industry Structural Adjustment Program and Commercialisation Australia. I do have some questions around the Green Building Fund and the linkages programs, so I signal those in advance. I appreciate that they are not in the minister’s direct portfolio, so it might be easiest to come back to them.

Minister, in the budget there were some announcements in your direct area of responsibility. I am hopeful you might be able to shed some light on the budget announcement on mediation services relating to the various codes. In your media release you talked about an ‘introduction’, and you might have seen some of my commentary on the ‘introduction’ of services that are largely in place now. Then, in the body of your release, you talked about a continuation of them. Could I have a clarification on whether the $2.7 million is for new resources on top of the resources that were already available for those services and what the aggregate sum looks like? The budget documents actually float another number, a $2 million number, so it is a little hard to follow what is new and what is an extension. Some guidance on that would be helpful. Also, could you tell me the extent to which those services are being taken up and whether you think that will help streamline the process through the consolidation?

I would be grateful for an expansion on the business number and business name registration initiative. I note that a number of portfolios are party to that process—ASIC, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the tax office. There is some capital expenditure and the like as well as some for your own department. I would be keen to get a sense of how that is being apportioned, what processes and programs are going to work through that and how it may overcome some of the current business name challenges where, in some states, the ‘&’ symbol does not get recognised. We have had some examples of what I would call ‘ambush marketing’, where it might be ‘Craig & Bruce’s Small Business Advisory Service’, the ‘&’ symbol does not appear on some search engines and someone then gets ‘Craig Bruce’s Small Business Advisory Service’. There have been some problems in that space and I am interested in how they could be overcome by this measure.

The other issue—and it is not directly in your portfolio but I am sure it is something you are aware of—was around the charge on respondents with reporting obligations under AUSTRAC for some of its anti-money-laundering activities. The $500 annual charge and the amount per transaction are really proving to be quite a concern for some of the smaller businesses—newsagents and the like—that handle cash transfer arrangements that are not very high margin. To what extent are you engaged with that subject and how it might be rolled out to deal with the small business impact?