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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9775


Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (17:09): I rise to speak on the Business Names Registration Bill 2011, the Business Names Registration (Fees) Bill 2011 and the Business Names Registration (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2011. The coalition supports this legislative change. Why do we support it? Because the coalition identified, during 2006, that the burden of having to register a business in each of the states that its operations go through was red tape that was just not required. Stakeholder consultations were undertaken between September and October 2006 under the coalition government, market testing was completed in October 2006 and a discussion paper was released to accompany consultations with industry associations between September and October 2007. On 3 July 2008, COAG agreed to develop a single national system for registering and regulating businesses. This has been identified as one of 27 regulatory reforms that form part of the National Partnership Agreement to Deliver a Seamless National Economy.

The second issue is not just having to register businesses in each state but, as other colleagues in this House have raised, the cost and the differences of costs in each state. What is proposed is a three-year national registration fee of $70 or a renewal fee of $70. But if you were to register your business in the ACT it would be $151; in New South Wales it would be another $160; in Victoria, another $85.50; in Queensland, $255.60; in South Australia, $159; in Tasmania, $140; in the Northern Territory, $66; and in Western Australia, $90. When it comes to renew, as I said, the national fee would be $70. But, under the current regime, to renew it would be $127 in the ACT; $115 in New South Wales; $60.10 in Victoria; $206.85 in Queensland; $128 in South Australia; $140 in Tasmania; $56 in the Northern Territory; and $75 in Western Australia.

Today more and more businesses are conducting business events across borders, particularly with the advent of internet and e-trading. It is important that business owners have their business registered and have an ABN. There is a requirement to publish your ABN on a variety of documents, and that will not change. In fact, it will need to be included on certain documents lodged with ASIC, on a statement of account including invoices, on receipts, on an order for goods or services, on a cheque, on a promissory note or bill of exchange, or on an offer to provide goods or services rather than an invitation to treat. I see this, and the coalition sees this, as a plus for business, particularly small business.

In my shadow portfolio of tourism and regional development, but primarily tourism, the number of people in small business, medium business and large business is high. A microbusiness employs one to four people; a small business employs five to 19 people; a medium business employs 20 to 199 people and a large business employs 200 or more people. In June 2007, in the statistics from the ABS, in the microbusiness category there were 26,788 businesses, in the small category there were 20,358 businesses; in medium there were 8,973, and in large there were 522—a total of 56,631. There were additional businesses called non-employing businesses, of which there were 61,398—a total of 118,029 businesses. Those are total tourism characteristics. The numbers amplify when we start to look at those that are tourism connected, tourism related and even non tourism related. When you get the mixture of total tourism related and non tourism related industries, there are a total of 2,011,902 businesses. So the cost savings will be massive. It has been put that the national Australian Business Licence Information Service and the Australian business account will provide benefits of some $1.5 billion over eight years to business, governments and consumers.

Quite regularly I am contacted in my office by constituents who are trying to identify a business. Given the advent of things such as the pink batts and other various schemes, a lot of contractors move from state to state to pick up opportunities that are there. If those consumers have issues and they try to track the person to identify who the operators were, if there is no ABN or the ABN is registered in another state but not clearly identified, it makes it somewhat harder for those people to seek recovery action. The coalition support this legislation because we believe in reducing the red tape burden upon business in general but, in particular, on small business. As I said, the tourism industry has a large number of small businesses and the costs and impacts are massive. To have to stump up around a thousand dollars over three years is quite a considerable cost impact on those businesses.

There is an issue that will arise. For example, if John's Diving Services is registered in New South Wales and there is a John's Diving Services registered in Victoria and another one in Queensland, whilst all three may have a different ABN, how will people be able to identify him? One of the things put forward by ASIC is that they will insert a distinguishing mark or expression on the register, and the identifiers may be John's Diving Services, Port Stephens; John's Diving Services, Hervey Bay; or John's Diving Services, Port Melbourne. There is no restriction on someone registering a business name which is their own name. If we are looking at John Smith, plumber, I can imagine how many John Smiths are actually plumbers and who are trading by that name. So I think this is a positive move. I am glad that the states have agreed to forgo a level of revenue which would be quite substantial to their bottom line. But, as I say, when we look at reducing the red tape and the regulatory burden on business, it will have a positive effect.

I say to the government that there are also a number of other regulatory burdens placed upon small businesses that need to be addressed urgently. Small business is suffering very much. It is incumbent on a government that declares that it supports workers, for workers can only ever be employed by employers, to take a positive and proactive step to address further regulatory concerns held by business, and it needs to do it as a matter of urgency. Given that the coalition support the bill, there is not much point in taking up more time in the debate, but I did want to highlight the number of people who are involved in small business, in particular those who are involved in the tourism industry. We support the legislation.