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Monday, 25 August 1997
Page: 5538

Senator SHERRY (Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate)(1.44 p.m.) —I would like to make a couple of comments in the context of some of the issues that Senator Harradine and Senator Campbell touched on. Senator Harradine, we, in a sense, debated this approach with respect to the exemption during the last sitting of the Senate. I would ask you to take into account your position on that occasion with respect to your consideration of this legislation.

Senator Harradine interjecting

Senator SHERRY —I am glad you have it all there, Senator Harradine. I would also ask you, Senator Harradine, to consider the fact that, if no-one is disagreeing in principle with the government's approach, it is still important that we consider, as we have done on previous occasions, issues of fairness and equity in our approach to what is the relevant cut-off point for the rollover to take effect.

As I have said in my previous comments, the superannuation tax concessions that are already available should be taken into account in the context of small business. Many small business people do have money in superannuation more broadly and obtain a significant tax benefit that way, albeit some of them are very upset at the government's new superannuation tax. Isn't it reasonable, Senator Harradine, to take into account other personal use assets such as those I touched on—art collections, boats or other forms of personal use assets worth more than $5,000—if that is where some small business people have chosen to acquire assets and wealth?

Senator Campbell referred to small businesses building up assets over many decades in some cases. I would like to point out, Senator Campbell, that capital gains tax only applies to assets built up since 1985, not to assets prior to 1985. We are not dealing with, as you wrongly and very generally and emotively asserted, assets built up over decades. That is just not correct.

I will conclude my point in respect of small business more generally. I, like many of my colleagues such as Stephen Martin, our small business spokesperson, and a number of our other shadow ministers, spent a lot of time with small business. I would have to say that, in the last couple of months during the recess, there are two issues that small business raised consistently with Labor. I suspect they have raised them consistently with you too if you are honest about what small business has been saying to you.

The first issue they raised with us is that they want consumer confidence restored. They want customers coming through their business door and spending money. There is a significant lack of confidence within the broader community and small business is suffering as a consequence of that lack of confidence which, to a significant part, I would argue, Senator Campbell, your government has created. There is a significant lack of confidence within the community. I am not just basing my remarks on small business in Tasmania. If you want a small business desert at the moment, come to Tasmania. They are very concerned about trading conditions. That concern is more generally held by small business right around the country at the moment.

The second issue they raise consistently is the issue Senator Harradine touched on—fair trading. They seem to me to be the two issues that are most consistently raised by small business. Frankly, I do not think I have had one small business operator raise this CGT rollover exemption for retirement products, as important as it is. They have certainly raised the new superannuation tax with me. Quite a number have raised that with me. They have certainly raised the deeming provisions at 55 as well, but not one has raised this measure you are proposing here.

In relation to the other point Senator Harradine made, I would have to say that a number of small businesses have raised the issue of exemption from unfair dismissal provisions, but overwhelmingly the issues are customers' demand and consumer confidence. They want money through their till. They want demand in the community and they want fair trading. I think they are the priorities that small business is currently concerned with and will be concerned with for some time.

I am disappointed in Senator Harradine's approach. I hope he will reconsider, but I do not want to unnecessarily occupy the time of the committee if Senator Harradine is not going to give consideration to his stated position on these amendments.