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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13392


Mr BILLSON (Dunkley) (21:38): I grieve for the small business community and the inability or unwillingness of this Gillard Labor government to understand that small business growth and vitality is the key to our economy and prosperity and opportunities right across our communities. Most people think that the largest employer in the country is either the government or a big bank or a really big behemoth business. In fact that is not even close to the truth. The real big employer in the Australian economy is not big business, it is not big government—it is small business, with employment spread right across this continent. Whether it is the local real estate agent, the newsagency, the drycleaner or the cafe, these small businesses collectively employ almost five million people. Our economy depends on these men and women because they are passionate about their business and about creating jobs and opportunities for themselves and for others in their community.

But the engine room of our economy has been left under siege since Labor came to power in 2007. When the Howard government left office small business employment was 53 per cent of the private sector workforce. Now small business employs 45.7 per cent of the private sector workforce, and since the election of Labor the number of people employed in small business has dropped by 243,000 despite our growing population. This is having a negative effect on the overall state of our economy and it is not helped by the fact that Labor has introduced more than 20,800 regulations and has repealed only 104. This is despite the 'one on one out' promise towards regulation made by Labor in 2007. Instead of one in one out we get fitted up with 200 new or amended regulations for each one that has been repealed.

When the economy was functioning well and people were confident about their prospects and optimistic about the future, small business was thriving, with small business people willing to take risks and to employ. But wind back the clock five years and these people who were willing to take a risk and start their own business, choosing to be an employer rather than an employee, now look at employment in someone else's business as perhaps a more secure option. Ask the children of men and women of small business what they want to do, and too many of them say, 'I see how hard mum and dad work. I don't know what I want to do with my life, but running my own business might not be for me.'

We need to change this, because without small business our economy is nothing. As a sector it is worth $294 billion to our economy and we need that energy, that vitality, that opportunity-creating energy that small business provides. The coalition believes that we can reverse the small business erosion by properly managing the economy and by partnering with small business to create the right environment for people to invest and grow their business. If elected, a coalition government would aim to double the current existing annual rate of small business growth. There is no reason Australia should not be able to achieve an annual growth rate in the numbers of small businesses of around 1.5 per cent per annum. This was the growth rate achieved by the Howard government, and it would mean adding approximately 30,000 new small businesses each year. Specifically, the focus would be on growing the number of small businesses that employ and provide jobs. The coalition wants to once again see small business providing more than half the jobs in the private sector, since that is where people get a start in life, where entrepreneurship is fostered and where innovation happens.

What sits behind this goal is the coalition's comprehensive 10-point plan that partners with the small business community, because we understand that a diversified small business economy is central to the overall prosperity of our nation. Our action plan would see a future coalition government axe the world's biggest carbon tax—a tax designed to hurt and harm small business intentionally as a result of its design. We would cut a billion dollars of red tape—a burden that lands most heavily on smaller businesses. We would help small businesses attract and retain workers through a fair dinkum, real wage, real time paid parental leave system, and we would ensure that small businesses are represented in cabinet and on key economic and regulatory bodies. In addition, we would also protect the rights of independent contractors by preserving their tax treatment, by ending this never-ending attack on self-employment and independent contracting orchestrated by unions that want to see the self-employed brought within the reach of the employer-employee relationship, so that the union influence and possible additional subs can be within their reach.

We want to extend the unfair contract provisions so that small business has the same rights as consumers, and also to enhance small business access to government procurement and contract opportunities. The establishment of a small business and family enterprise ombudsman, and our commitment to a root-and-branch review of competition laws, will also help to level the playing field so small businesses get a fairer go competing with big business and big unions.

These initiatives will deliver durable benefits to consumers in a more productive, resilient and innovative economy. Australia is a nation that has small business running through its veins, but the only way to help the sector and the economy to grow is to change the government. I grieve for small business that sees no opportunity under this current government and under the policies they are implementing, and I am committed to seeing the coalition implement our positive plan to support small business, hope, reward and opportunity. A second issue that I grieve about tonight relates to a very worrying episode that occurred on Remembrance Day this year. Rather than support the shared sacrifice and commitment between Australia and France, the freedom and liberty secured for many at great cost between the two nations, there was an ugly incident—an ugly, unforgiveable and unjustifiable incident—on a bus between Mordialloc and Caulfield after the train services had been postponed due to a technical difficulty.

This ugly incident saw a Frenchwoman racially abused on that bus. This was a sad, unnecessary and un-Australian episode and it reflected very poorly on those who instigated it. But what followed was something that continues to concern me and the Frankston community that I represent. Mordialloc to Caulfield is not in Frankston but, in media reports, it has been suggested that this episode was perpetrated by people from Frankston or even occurred in Frankston where neither is the case. In fact the video that went viral on YouTube showed two of the perpetrators getting off the bus, one of them choosing to break the window adjacent to this young woman who did nothing more than sing proudly in French and, rather than suggest that others might have wanted to listen to something else, a tirade was directed towards her of racial and sexual abuse.

The dismounting passenger, who got off somewhere between Mordialloc and Caulfield, clearly broke a glass window as he left. There are reports that two people from Hampton Park have been questioned about that episode—again, nothing to do with Frankston. Yet as we look through reports, including those published in our own Leader newspaper, somehow it was a racist attack on a Frankston bus line. It was not; it was on a bus between Mordialloc and Caulfield. Even Joe Hildebrand, someone who grew up not far from Frankston at Dandenong, seemed to attribute the conduct as if it had something to do with our city of Frankston.

We go on: Nino Bucci and Jared Lynch also went on to clarify the point that it was Hampton Park residents who had been questioned by police but, again, the inference was left hanging that it had something to do with Frankston. Tim Blair, reporting in the Daily Telegraph, a Sydney newspaper, went on to say that it was a 'foul Frankston fellow' who conducted this appalling conduct towards the Frenchwoman—again, this is not right.

It must bring people some false comfort to attribute episodes like this or some less admirable human qualities to a community that I represent. Frankston is a wonderful city.

Another French example I could point to is the executive from Alcatel. He has global experience and where did he choose to live? He chose to live in Frankston. Where is South East Water putting its corporate headquarters? That would be in Frankston. Where have we worked so hard to get the necessary infrastructure to service our community? That would be in Frankston. Where are opportunities so delicious you can almost taste them? That would be in Frankston. Yet still it is convenient, lazy, for some to attribute anything that is other than spectacular to Frankston, to deride its reputation when it has so much going for it, to not realise that there are so many opportunities in a community that has been maligned unfairly in the past and appears to continue to be when it is undeserving of that criticism.

I say to those people who have not been to the Frankston community for many years: update your understanding of this community. Some might challenge my view that it is the Riviera of the Southern Hemisphere. That is fine; I am happy to have that argument. But the opportunities in our community are real and they are attractive. It is a wonderful place to invest, a terrific place to live, a very warm and big-hearted community that takes care of its own and welcomes others. It carries a significant burden for supporting disadvantaged members of our community—that should be heralded and welcomed—and we are striving ahead, despite hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in other cities around Melbourne, a mere fraction of which came to Frankston. So much going for it—do yourself a favour. There is lots to love about Frankston. Update your perceptions of a great community.