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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11262


Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (16:50): I rise today out of concern for the economic commercial health and wealth of small business in the electorate of Flynn and also the rest of Australia. It is true that the two-speed economy in some industries is doing extremely well, but it is also true that a lot of small to medium businesses who are the life and breath of regional communities are facing severe financial difficulties. After talking to several of my colleagues around Australia, it is not isolated to Queensland but, sadly, is the case in all states and territories.

Why is this? It is, in part, a problem caused by the government itself. Constantly I have businesspeople in my office complaining about too much red tape, too many government charges, too many government regulations, unfair and debilitating taxes, public servants who have no idea whatsoever of how a commercial operation runs and too many government departments who will not allocate government contracts to local businesses. The list goes on and on. I take the recent BER scheme. Local builders were told they could not work because they were not certified by the government. How ridiculous is this? In one instance, the Wowan State School in my electorate wanted to engage a local builder for almost half the cost of the government's preferred builder, but even though this local builder was a registered builder under the BSA he was passed over for a national builder who used drive-in drive-out workers. This story has been repeated throughout Australia. Another example of how the government and authorities can get it completely wrong is the case of a sawmill in Eidsvold in my electorate. The Eidsvold sawmill produced electric light poles and it was a growing business. It wanted to process another four truckloads of poles per week, meaning that it would increase its workforce by another five workers, from 19 to 23. The government stepped in and demanded that the company upgrade a perfectly good road in front of the property at a cost of $237,000—not the company's road but a council road. Then the electricity company demanded that the power to the site be upgraded. The original cost of the power upgrade was acceptable to the company, but, as negotiations went on, the company was asked to contribute a further 40 per cent above the cost of providing such services. It was prepared to pay 18 per cent above cost, but 40 per cent was out of its range and blew it out of the market. The sawmill could not afford these unreasonable costs, so it shut down and now the poles are being produced at another sawmill 200 kilometres away. This move put 19 workers, 17 of them Indigenous workers, on the unemployment roll.

Eidsvold has a population of 600 people. According to the latest figures 58 per cent of the population are in full-time employment. The unemployment rate was already 9.6 per cent, so now, because of this uncaring, immovable policy of the government, unemployment has gone up by another 19 people, presumably lifting the unemployment to level to above 12 per cent.

Stories like these are well known all over Australia. The transport industry and regulations ruling that industry need to be brought together throughout the states, and the state transport ministers should unify the rules so that truck drivers and the trucking industry can work no matter what they state they are in. The cost of registration for a B-double cattle truck is approximately $26,000, and a truck can sit idle for six months because of poor road conditions and wet weather. This is a pretty poor reflection on the government.