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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2175


Mr EVANS (Brisbane) (18:17): I'm proud to have recently become the chair of the government's backbench committee on small business, employment, innovation and science, and I look forward to working closely with the Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation, the Hon. Craig Laundy, for the benefit of Australia's small and family businesses and, ultimately, for the benefit of all of Brisbane and all Australians. I believe it's important to focus on how the fortunes of Australia's small and family businesses are so closely tied to the prosperity of almost all Australians out there. This is important because, at this time, the Turnbull government has a suite of policies which are turbocharging small and family businesses, leading to record numbers of jobs and opportunities being created around Australia. Four hundred and three thousand new jobs were created last year—the highest number for any year on record. That is 1,100 jobs a day. Seventy-five per cent of those—three out of every four—are full-time jobs.

Yet we see this opposition crab-walking away from sensible economic policies—crab-walking away from what used to be standard, bipartisan planks of this country's economic agenda: tax cuts, trade, jobs creation, independent IR decision-making. The opposition these days is crab-walking away from that Hawke-Keating economic legacy, despite the fact that those old Labor leaders built that legacy by trying to drag Labor back towards mainstream economic policies to make them re-electable and ultimately worthy to hold government again.

This emerging and growing difference between the major parties that we're seeing on economic matters, and other matters, is, I think, one of the most important underlying trends in politics at the moment. It's a shame that more journalists and more commentators are possibly not so attuned to it. We've had 26 years now of sustained economic growth in this country.

That's not just a throwaway line or a statistic; it's a significant achievement that no other country around the world has managed to match. In practice it means that Australians under the age of 40, such as me, have not been in the workforce during an actual recession. It means that Australians have become, over that time, some of the most prosperous and egalitarian citizens around the world. It means that our living standards over that period of time grew more than most other developed countries and that we can, consequently, afford to do more and be more than the generations that came before us. That's really what's at stake here.

As this government takes those sensible economic foundations which used to enjoy bipartisan support and takes that strong economic base forward into the 21st century with our focuses on international competitiveness, trade, tax reform and the National Innovation and Science Agenda, we see a Labor Party dismantling the very policy base that it used to support and that saw Australia achieve those 26 long years of unmatched economic growth.

When it comes to the jobs and the growth being delivered today, small business really is the key, Mr Deputy Speaker Goodenough. Small businesses already do more than any other sector to provide jobs, opportunities and prosperity, including for the young, for women, for the less trained and for the most vulnerable in our society. Eighty per cent—eight out of 10—of all of the jobs that have been created in this country over the last 10 years were created in small and new businesses. That's according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. So small business is not just the backbone of our economy; it's the powerhouse of our growth when it comes to creating new jobs and opportunities.

So it's by no means an accident that our economic plan has been structured around supporting small businesses at its very core, as its starting point, as our tiered economic tax plan shows. Cutting taxes to our small and medium businesses first, everything we are doing is centred on them and with them first in mind, because we know that the policies that we're implementing are good for investment. It's freeing up businesses to invest in their businesses and, ultimately, in creating the opportunities that mean new jobs. We know that every single time in the past a federal Australian government has reduced that headline corporate tax rate there have been higher corporate tax takes for the government in the future. That shows two things. Firstly, it used to be bipartisan policy and well known that cutting tax stokes growth. Secondly, it increases the confidence to invest.

We're also trying to rekindle this nation's great reputation for innovation and backing it to ensure our world-class research and technology can be commercialised to create even more opportunities. The National Innovation and Science Agenda of this government, I think, will be forever remembered as the birthplace of so many Australian success stories in business, so many inventions, so many medical research breakthroughs and other breakthroughs, so many new business start-ups and so many successful entrepreneurs.

Yet we're also giving businesses the confidence to invest and grow by themselves. In many ways, our agenda of creating this business-friendly environment has steadied the ship for our business community after far too many years of policy uncertainty under previous governments. Government can never be the sole creator of new jobs and opportunities, and in many ways it's just as important sometimes for policymakers to know when to get out of the way of business when it's creating those opportunities and that prosperity.

It's really important for policymakers to properly comprehend the potential, needs and challenges of, especially, our small business sector and our family businesses, because, when policymakers think first and foremost about big businesses, big unions and big government doing deals and making decisions, they really ultimately fail small businesses and the majority of Australians who are employed in those small businesses. If policymakers make new regulations or new laws for particular industries and think first and foremost only of the big businesses in that industry, they can often fail to comprehend how the compliance burden will fall more onerously on the small businesses. They can actually create the situation where big businesses get a competitive advantage over those small businesses and start-ups—by being more easily able to comply with the new laws or regulations. Even when many small businesses aren't directly regulated or licensed, they certainly can still feel the cumulative burden of business red tape. Well-intentioned but ill-considered and sometimes poorly administered regulations can kill otherwise good businesses by making hardworking small business people throw in the towel.

My experience, as I've outlined in this place previously, is that too many small businesses are currently surviving in that fraught purgatory of noncompliance and non-enforcement. Better government is the key, and our party was founded on these principles focused on the forgotten people: shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professional men and women. To support our small businesses today, I believe the small business middle class will be just as likely to include young entrepreneurs, creative industry types, tradies, independent contractors and medical researchers—professionals who have specialised in areas of expertise but don't want to be shackled by employment to individual advisory or big service firms. To support the emerging small business class of today and tomorrow, wherever possible we need to keep up this focus on ensuring that our regulations are based more around principles than overprescriptions. It is a change I think we can encourage, especially with Minister Laundy at the head of our small business agenda. Like me, the minister is of and from the small and family business sector. He understands where prosperity comes from.

Sadly, the Labor Party are becoming so divorced from their past and from business that these days they confuse income with profit. Last year 1.1 million small and family businesses made not one single dollar in profit yet at the same time employed hundreds and thousands of people, and paid salaries amounting to almost $40 billion. What will happen to those businesses and all their employees under a change of government? What will happen to the hardworking small business owners when they get a Labor Party that wants to roll back all those policies we've been implementing to support their businesses to grow? Most importantly, what will happen to the millions of Australians who work for those small businesses if they get a Labor government that doesn't even pretend to understand how the small business sector works, given how its deals and policymaking focus on big business, big unions and big government? The Turnbull government is right now delivering the support that small and family businesses need.