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Wednesday, 9 December 1998
Page: 1722

Mr FITZGIBBON —My question is to the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business. Is the minister aware of the following comments in yesterday's Australian Financial Review with respect to the $500 million small to medium enterprise GST `compensation fund'? It says:

There are issues for small business like updating and upgrading accounting systems, training staff, changing stationery and planning whether you will be better or worse off in terms of cash flow. All those involve time and cost.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —You have to be able to read better than that.

Mr SPEAKER —The Minister for Aged Care!

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —He has no flow.

Mr SPEAKER —The Minister for Aged Care!

Mr FITZGIBBON —It continues:

The $500 set aside for each small business's establishment cost is an unrealistic figure."

Mr Slipper —Who wrote it? Who wrote it?

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the member for Fisher.

Mr FITZGIBBON —The quote was from Mr Ken Traill, the principal consultant on tax reform at the Institute of Chartered Accountants. It appeared in yesterday's Australian Financial Review , as I said. In light of these criticisms on the impact of a GST on small business, will you be increasing the size of the fund?

Mr REITH (Workplace Relations and Small Business) —In response to this very sophisticated question from the shadow minister for small business, I inform him that the small business community reckons that fixing up the tax system is one of the most important things we can do. In all the surveys—the one during the election, for example—they were asked to nominate the most important issues—

Mr Fitzgibbon —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order which goes to relevance. I asked a very specific question about the size of the compensation fund, which is grossly inadequate.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Hunter will resume his seat. The minister has had, in fact, 23 seconds on his feet.

Mr REITH —A few more seconds will do to dispose of the question, Mr Speaker. The fact is that small business reckons it is a great idea. We have announced a small business consultative committee which will be working with the government to ensure that we have the best possible system for small business.

Mr Bevis —How many jobs in this one—50,000?

Mr REITH —How many jobs are there in this? The new tax system is very good for jobs. That is why we are in favour of it, and that is why you are against it.