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Wednesday, 5 October 1983
Page: 1381


Mr SHIPTON(5.8) —The Government's proposed amendment to the Economic Planning Advisory Council Act to provide a small business representative on that Council is a direct result of an Opposition initiative in the debate on the Bill . It is a victory for constructive criticism by the Opposition. The Government's appointment of a small business representative is a direct result of the Opposition pointing out and pressing on the Government the need for small business representation. We moved an amendment in almost identical terms to this amendment when the Bill was first debated. The amendment before us today is a direct result of the Opposition's efforts in raising the matter in this place. One would have hoped that the Government would have been magnanimous enough to give the Opposition credit. What a shame it is that the Government did not accept our amendment when we moved it in the House, which would have made today' s debate unnecessary.

The Opposition has forced the Government to accept that the voice of small business has to be heard by the Federal Government. Initially the Government ignored and overlooked the need for a small business representative, which is a consistent hallmark and theme of the Government's conduct since being elected. Therefore, a greater than usual responsibility rests with this Opposition to point out the needs of and the problems facing small business because of the Government's failure to understand the problems facing thousands of small businesses in Australia today. The Opposition is proud and pleased to have played a part in getting the Government to introduce the amendment before the House today.

While agreeing with the amendment, the Opposition is still critical of the concept of the Economic Planning Advisory Council and is still disappointed that it has no individual small business representative as well as the representative of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia that the Government has appointed. The Opposition welcomes the COSBOA appointment to EPAC, but there is still no individual representative and the Opposition is generally critical of EPAC's functions. The Government has ended the process of holding formal pre- Budget consultations with major community, business and employee organisations, substituting EPAC in its place. Of course, EPAC did not operate before the last Budget, and the Budget shows clearly that the Government did not consult with anyone in the community other than the union movement. Accordingly, EPAC will act as a filter for community views reaching the Government, and in reality small business is further away than ever under this Government. The Government since its election has completely failed small and medium sized business in Australia.


Mr Aldred —Very true.


Mr SHIPTON —It is very true. I am sorry to say that the small business community is generally disillusioned, disaffected and depressed by the Labor Government's failure to recognise its special nature and needs. This Government has ignored small business. Labor promised small business a special action program. We have not seen it. The Budget, the mini-Budget and the Government's wages policy have put up costs for every small business in Australia. Whilst the Government has introduced this welcome amendment, it has not fulfilled any of its tax promises to small business. There has been no legislation as promised to allow small firms full retention of profits. There has been no legislation to give small businesses the option of paying provisional tax in quarterly instalments. There has been no amendment to the sales tax Act to allow longer time to remit tax due by those businesses that have to pay sales tax within 21 days, even though they do not get paid for another 60 or 90 days.

Senator Button, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, has said publicly that in return for these tax concessions small business ought to face a capital gains tax. This shows quite clearly that the Government fails to understand the crisis facing many small businesses in Australia today. The Government fails to understand that there needs to be a focus of attention on the needs and problems facing small and medium sized businesses. The Government fails to recognise that special attention must be given to encourage the growth of a healthy, vital, entrepreneurial small business sector, a healthy small business sector in the total private sector. The growth of small business must provide the key to recovery in the economy.

As I said, I am pleased that the Government has taken up the Opposition's initiative in relation to this amendment. I hope that the Government will adopt another suggestion of the Opposition, namely, that 1984 be designated the year of small business in Australia. Small business needs to be recognised in this way. This Government must focus its attention on the requirements and needs of small business in the Australian economy. We must create-it is imperative that we do so-a better environment which encourages the growth and prosperity of small business-entrepreneurs, the self-employed and the individual small and medium sized businesses-because small businesses are the key to economic recovery. Their health and growth provide the major opportunity for job generation in Australia.

I am pessimistic about the capacity of the larger corporate sector to provide job opportunities. Small business, by its very nature, provides the opportunity for growth and job generation. But it can do so only in a climate where it is fostered. We have no such climate under the present Government. Therefore, we need to focus our attention on its special problems and needs. Let us hope that in future the Government will listen to the Opposition-and accept, as it has accepted the Opposition's proposal for small business represenation on EPAC, our proposal that 1984 be nominated the year of small business in Australia.