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Thursday, 2 May 1996
Page: 268


Mr ANDREW —I address my question to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will

be aware of the optimistic mood and the new signs of confidence emerging in the small business community since the change of government in March. Are you aware, sir, of concerns that a failure to address the previous administration's $8 billion black hole will dampen this new mood of confidence? Can the Prime Minister tell the parliament and the business community what action he is taking to fulfil his commitment to reduce the paper burden which is stifling the productivity of the job creators?


Mr HOWARD —I thank the honourable member for that question. He continues his longstanding interest in small business matters. I am very proud of the fact—


Mr McMullan —How to turn big ones into small ones.


Mr HOWARD —Have 13 years of Labor government. That is how you do it.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr HOWARD —Oh, yeah—got me on the hook! I am very proud of the fact that one of the principal features of the coalition's campaign was our commitment to small business and to the role of small business both in providing jobs and in increasing activity in the Australian economy. I did commit myself that we would establish a small business deregulation task force to address the level and complexity of red tape affecting small business. I said that that task force would report directly to me within six months of its establishment and it would have as its remit a reduction of 50 per cent over a three-year period in the amount of red tape and regulation generally to which small business was subjected.

I am very happy to announce today the membership of that task force. The task force will be chaired by Mr Charlie Bell, the Managing Director of McDonald's. Mr Bell, aged 35, is regarded as one of the most dynamic of the younger generation of small business operators. The other members of the task force will be Miss Clare Grose, a partner in Freehill Hollingdale and Page in Sydney; Mr Simon Hegarty, an accountant with KPMG in Launceston—


Mr Warwick Smith —In Tasmania.


Mr HOWARD —In Tasmania, who has a very large clientele in small business; Mr Mark Kuperholz, who is the owner/managing director of Everco Wiring Systems in Melbourne, who has won the award as small businessman of the year on a number of occasions; and, finally, Mr Roger Du Blet, who is the principal of a very successful small to medium sized enterprise in Brisbane, Reduct Pty Ltd.

That represents a very blended group of people. The membership of the committee will also include the Secretary of the Department of Industry, Science and Tourism, Mr Greg Taylor. You could not get a wider range of people who understand the needs, the requirements and the difficulties of small business in Australia.

The other thing I want to say—to underline the determination of the government to act in this area and that we are simply not just assigning the problem to a committee and that it will somehow or another disappear in the sand and not be heard of again—is that I can announce today that, as down payment on the work of the task force, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has guaranteed to the government—and this is effective immediately—to reduce the cost to small business of completing statistical returns by 20 per cent and, in doing so, to minimise the number of occasions that small businesses are involved in more than one ABS collection. I can say that, effective from now, the number of forms that small business will have to fill out will fall by 20 per cent.

That is a down payment on the work of the committee. It is an earnest of the determination of this government to do something tangible to reduce the regulatory burden on small business. We are not waiting on the committee to tell us what to do; we are delivering a down payment of reducing by 20 per cent the burden of statistical returns on small business. If you talk to any man or woman in Australia who is operating a small business and ask them what their major complaints are, the first complaint—


Mrs Crosio —There is no woman on the committee.


Mr HOWARD —There is no woman! Clare—Miss Clare—Grose, a partner in Freehill Hollingdale and Page. You should listen.

As I was saying, if you go around Australia and talk to any man or woman who is running a small business, the two things they complain about most are, number one, the unfair dismissal law; and the second thing they complain about most is the burden of red tape. The Senate willing, we will do something about the unfair dismissal law, and we have done something right now about the burden of red tape. The Bell committee—which will give us, I think, the best researched examination of small business regulatory burdens we have seen for years in this country—I am sure, with the sort of men and women who are on it, also will have an excellent opportunity to tell us precisely how we can further reduce the burden.

I simply repeat: this government is absolutely committed to the cause of small business in Australia. We believe in it; we believe it will be a great job provider; and we believe it will be a great part of the engine of economic growth and economic recovery in this country. At every level of government activity we are going to do things to give small business incentive and to lift the shackles of paperwork and the shackles of overregulation.