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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13387

WYATT ROY (Longman) (21:18): Today we find ourselves on the cusp of what should be the happiest of times: the annual festive season, with its celebration of love and harmony and prosperity, a time to pull our families closer, to be thankful and to do good to others. But, tragically, the activities of this Labor government have meant that numerous families will end of the year as they began it, with their hope dimmed and their aspirations crushed. The dual blunt instruments of Labor's economic policy, overtaxing and overregulation, will in too many cases leave little spare cash for Christmas. This should be a time for small business, the lifeblood of our economy, to enjoy rest and recreation and enjoy the fruits of their hard work, but it is difficult to find any gift inside the swathe of government enforced red tape. Why is this federal Labor government so intent on killing our economy? What sort of crazy logic seeks to justify the jettison of the $20 billion surplus down the gurgler to the point of a staggering net debt of $147 billion? It is the biggest debt in Australian history and we, the Australian taxpayers, are now paying almost $20 million a day in interest to service it. In any regular Australian family, the hardworking forgotten families of our nation, that degree of money wasting would be beyond comprehension. It would be beyond the remediation of the world's best and brightest in the financial counselling world.

Let me share with the House some more jaw-dropping figures to chew on over Christmas. Under the Howard government, annual average GDP growth was 3.7 per cent. With Labor recklessly at the wheel since 2007, GDP growth has fallen to just 2.4 per cent. Inflation was just 2.4 per cent in the Howard years, but has now increased to 2.9 per cent under this federal Labor government. Growth in retail turnover has shortened to 4.2 per cent courtesy of Labor. Under the coalition it was significantly higher at 5.7 per cent. Building approvals grew by 14.6 per cent in the last year of the previous coalition government. This Labor government, due to its economic ineptitude, has presided over an extraordinary slippage—a 10.6 per cent decline in building approvals in the past 12 months.

Last week I met, as I have many times before, the human face of Labor's attack on hard-working and individual enterprise as I visited small businesses in my local community with the shadow minister for small business, the Hon. Bruce Billson, the member for Dunkley. These businesses are proud Queenslanders, beacons of hard work and true believers in hope, reward and opportunity. But under this federal Labor government, spirits are flagging. They continue to hope, but so long as Labour lingers they confess to wonder, is it hope against hope? I know a small shop owner in the suburb of Burpengary. How tight will his Christmas be when he is coughing up an extra $1,300 a month in Labor's carbon tax bills? Then there is the tracking and haulage operator from Caboolture, himself pursued relentlessly by the rise in refrigerant cost. Back in Burpengary, increasing overheads and reduced profit margins are cruelling the ambition and lifestyle of a popular coffee shop owner. This local business is desperate to hire more staff, but thanks to Labor's overregulation and inflexibility in the workplace he is too afraid to do so.

Let me be very clear about this: the coalition gets small business. Many of us, before entering politics, have been there. We know that small business is the pulse of a healthy economy, for not only does it perform a vital role in itself, but a prosperous small business reverberates in waves across our society. In short, a crippled small business sector is tantamount to a nation going backwards, not forwards. However, a re-elected coalition government would once again champion small business and drive it to new horizons. We will scrap the carbon tax to reduce the spiralling power costs that small businesses now have to pay without any compensation. We will cut red tape by $1 billion each year and implement a comprehensive deregulation agenda. We will simplify the administration of superannuation reporting, allowing small business to remit compulsory super payments for workers directly to the tax office. The ATO would then be responsible for disbursement to individual superannuation funds. We will establish a genuine root and branch review of competition laws to ensure that small and big business can compete on an equal footing. We will support the rights of independent contractors and family businesses by extending unfair contract protections to small business. We will ease the paperwork burden by moving the administration of the national Paid Parental Leave scheme from small business to the government's Family Assistance Office. We will reduce lawlessness in the workplace by re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission and we will build better infrastructure, with a special emphasis on lessening the bottlenecks on our gridlocked roads and highways.

These initiatives will lift productivity, cut compliance costs and help small business men and women of Australia share in the hope, reward and opportunity of a once-again proudly aspirational nation. A coalition government will aim to double the existing rate of small business growth, adding 30,000 new small businesses every year. We will champion small business to the hilt, because we know that is where people get a start in life, entrepreneurship is fostered and innovation happens. Labor still sees it fit to demoralise this very fabric.

Labor looked the Australian people squarely in the eye and promised there would be no carbon tax. As the countless small business owners and hardworking families across my local community know, there is a carbon tax. Labor vowed in its workplace relations changes that it would not be a cost burden to employers; another deception of the Australian people. Various alterations to modern awards under the Fair Work Act have resulted in some businesses experiencing labour cost hikes of up to 15 per cent. Labor promised there would be a one-in and one-out approach to regulation, but instead we get more dodgy Labor accounting. The reality is that there have 200 regulations in for every one out. That is 20,884 new or amended regulations for the repeal of only 104.

Additionally, Labor's superannuation changes have created a nightmare of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape for small business. This is after it assured voters that it would not be tampering with superannuation arrangements. Ironically, we have seen one concentrated area of focus on small business from the other side of the chamber. In last year's Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the government handed the Australian Taxation Office an extra $390 million for new compliance activity. How is that for some Christmas cheer? $390 million for the tax office to chase up outstanding income tax lodgements from an already cluttered, confused and often just-scraping-by small business sector. I knew the Labor Party had small business on their mind at some point.

It is little wonder that small business start-ups have dropped by 95 per cent. The number going bankrupt has risen by 48 per cent. Today, there are 11,000 fewer small businesses employing than there were in 2007. As we pause to reflect this Christmas, let us be mindful of Labor's past year and its gift of a concerted attack on hardworking Australians while keeping the coalition's politics of opportunity and aspiration in our sights. For here is where there is light and there is hope, and even more than that, there are practical solutions for the problems facing our nation.

The coalition represent encouragement over subsidy, and offers a hand-up rather than a hand-out. We are for smaller and more efficient government. We fight for lower taxes. We believe the individual's right to choose is paramount. The coalition are about respect for all Australians and respect for their hard earned income. As I said in my first speech in this place:

Governments don't have any money of their own; they only have the people's money, held in trust.

We will not abide by Labor's waste and mismanagement; we will pay-down debt, apply downward pressure on interest rates, wind back the operating costs for small businesses and so ease the costs of living for every Australian. The key to a prosperous economy is to curtail spending and boost productivity.

This Christmas, Australians are readying themselves for an upcoming federal election. They will ultimately face a choice between Labor's bad Santa, who plays a devilish hand with the economy, and the aspirational values and prudent fiscal policies of the coalition. Labor will continue to promise this gift or that gift. The difference is, when the coalition promises, it always delivers.