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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6792


Mr BILLSON (DunkleyMinister for Small Business) (10:42): I thank the member for Lyons. There are 7,800 small businesses in his electorate. The member for Lyons was reflecting on a question he asked in the House. There are a couple things I would like to add to that. It has been some 200 days since anyone from Labor has asked me a question. Is small business of such little interest to Labor that they do not think it is worthy? I do not know how many questions we would have had over that sitting period, but it must be in the hundreds. It seems quite extraordinary. It is very instructive that, amongst those hundreds of questions since about mid-November, there has not been one question from Labor about anything to do with small business. That is quite extraordinary.

In contrast to that the member for Lyons asked a very good question. If I can draw from my earlier comments, some measures I have already touched upon—and I will not spend too much time on them again: the abolition of the carbon tax is crucial, the red tape reduction measure is very significant and having small business considerations front and centre in the big decisions and all the analytical work of Treasury is crucial as part of that proper recognition and respect that small business people need.

The member for Lyons is absolutely right: the Paid Parental Leave scheme is a very important measure at so many levels. It is about ensuring that those people eligible for the coalition's Paid Parental Leave scheme can have their wage replacement set as the level for those payments. Why? I get feedback all the time from my own community and as I travel that if a family wishes to both pursue their economic objectives, through jobs, careers and engagement in the economy, and have a family it can be very difficult indeed. For many households two incomes are actually needed to meet the mortgage costs and the ongoing expenses of that household. And at a time when a family may have a newborn—a micro-human to care for—those costs just do not dramatically and miraculously overnight default back to some minimum wage level. They do not do that; those cost structures are still there. They need to meet the mortgage costs; they are still there. Those living expenses continue.

Yet, we see far more generous paid parental leave schemes in government, in the public sector, than any small business employer could ever dream of offering. We see this in major corporates as well, so it seemed to be right and appropriate for some contributors to the economy to have access to that kind of benefit. But Labor wants to obstruct a very positive measure to see that same kind of support available to the people operating in our small businesses and family enterprises. Where is the justice in that? Where is the honour? Where is the principle? Where is the consistency, that some working in big corporates and the public sector can get a benefit that Labor wants to deny to those people who are operating in the small business economy?

It is simply unjust to take that inequitable position, and that is why we have moved to implement a scheme that is perfect for small business: available to their workplaces and to those who are juggling the tasks of economic goals for themselves and their families, and also raising that family. For the first time, small businesses will be able to operate on a level playing field with the public sector and large businesses when it comes to offering those employment benefits to be able attract and recruit the very best people for their businesses.

It is about equity. It is about participation; encouraging people to see that there is a pathway to juggling those crucial dual objectives of economic wellbeing and prospects for a family. It is also being funded in a way that is fair and just. We took to the last election a 1½ per cent reduction in the company tax rate. Now, I know that only one-third of small businesses are actually structured as companies so for that 800,000 that is some promise of an encouragement and an incentive to grow and to be profitable in the future.

But this is not funded by the small companies. This is funded by the most profitable companies, which will not have that 1½ per cent company tax cut reduction within the window we have announced as a policy. This is really important; it is a measure that is funded in a sustainable way and it is a measure that is available to small business.

I would love to talk about the root-and-branch review, but there is so much to talk about! The root-and-branch review is something that Labor would not go near. They are happy to snarl and snigger and carry on about the problems but do nothing about it. Why? Because they only talk to big business and big unions, and this is about giving efficient businesses, big and small, a fair go, and I hope that I get the chance to speak further— Time expired)