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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 15261


Senator BARNETT (2:40 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, the Special Minister of State and the strong and effective leader of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team, Senator Abetz. Will the minister update the Senate on how the Australian government is helping Australia's 1.1 million small businesses to continue to grow and create more jobs? Is the minister aware of any recent threats to Australians employed in small business?


Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) —Senator Barnett has made me blush. I thank him for his support, as he knows he has my support. Senator Barnett's keen and genuine interest in small business is, of course, not unique on this side of the chamber. The Howard government is continuing to work hard to provide a strong growing economy in which the jobs generator—small business—can flourish and grow.

We are unapologetic about our support for small business just as Labor is unapologetic about their support for their union masters' anti small business policies. Interest rates and inflation remain at historical lows whilst confidence is strong—the right climate for small business. Strong small business growth is in the national interest because, as the latest employment figures show, small business creates jobs. If the Senate were to pass our workplace relations reform agenda for small business, another 50,000 jobs would be created. A survey released yesterday from the Executive Connection, a business development organisation, shows increased confidence in the Australian economy. According to Ron Hirsch, this optimistic outlook justifies aggressive expansion plans including an increase in hiring and investment.

Senator Barnett also asked me about the threats to Australia's 1.1 million small businesses. One of the most significant threats is the Labor state governments whose pursuit of stamp duty, land tax and payroll tax are all at record levels of collection. Unable to quench his thirst for more tax revenue, Labor's leader-in-waiting is finding new ways to tax jobs in small business. Now Mr Carr wants to introduce a new CBD employee tax. Typical of all Labor leaders, Bob Carr wants to introduce another tax. A generation ago, Mr Simon Crean's father sagely noted, `One man's pay rise is another man's job.' Today, Mr Simon Crean should be saying, `One premier's tax increase is other men's jobs.' Ironically though, this New South Wales Labor tax proposal may in fact save one Victorian Labor man's job. Mr Carr will slug every small business in the CBD in New South Wales with more than 10 employees with his tax—it is Labor's new tax on employment. But the Labor state governments are not the sole threat to Australian small businesses and the workers and families whose livelihoods they provide. The Labor Party's political masters have constantly threatened small businesses.

In New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, the teachers unions are planning a strike which will force thousands of parents to stay home or even take their children to work with them. The highly regarded Family Business Association, who last month held their successful national conference in Hobart, which I was honoured to attend, have expressed their concern for working families. As the director said, `It will not be the government that pays the price but families who have to deal with the fallout from it.' It is time for Mr Crean, for Labor and for the unions to show some support for small business in the national interest.