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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9781

Mr SLIPPER (FisherDeputy Speaker) (17:40): I think most of us would appreciate that small business is the engine room of the Australian economy and that a very large proportion of the employment in this country is generated by small business. That is why the best way to create more employment is to enable small businesses to operate efficiently, to grow and to focus on what small business does well—that is, operating small businesses rather than constantly filling out forms and dealing with red tape and bureaucracy.

I am pleased to be able to join in the debate on the Business Names Registration Bill 2011 and cognate bills currently before the House. These bills aim to ensure that the entities behind businesses can be identified, that the inconvenience and compliance cost of multiple registrations is avoided and that names that are undesirable, offensive or misleading are not registered. The bills will provide for easier and lower-cost registration of business names, which will encourage businesses to operate across borders and from state to state. I think it is important to recognise that, while we have a number of jurisdictions, we are one country and, when it is possible to achieve, we should aim for a national, cooperative approach. In this situation, instead of having to pay a separate business name registration fee for each state in which a business operates—which can cost up to $1,000 in combined registration fees for business—this bill enables just one registration on a national basis. It will bring the cost down to around $70 for a three-year registration. It is a massive change that will make things easier for all small businesses, as well as for large businesses, in terms of paperwork. It also means it will be a lot cheaper for the business entity to actually get on and do business and create jobs—which is, of course, to the benefit of the Australian economy.

The bill allows for the creation of a new national business names register to be operated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission—that is, ASIC. This new register will come with various guidelines to ensure that it is fair for all businesses.

The streamlining of the business name registration system is a helpful initiative and an important development, but it is vital that support for small business generally be maintained and be lifted to make sure that small business is able to power ahead and create jobs. Unfortunately, since the current government came to office, some 300,000 jobs have dissolved from the small business sector. This is regrettable. It has a flow-on effect to other parts of the community as the combined spending power of those workers is diminished. We cannot allow this important employment sector to be left to flounder, because of the implications for families and communities across the nation.

Recently, I was pleased to welcome the shadow minister for small business, the honourable member for Dunkley, to the Sunshine Coast. When he spoke to small business operators, he spoke from his own personal experience as a business owner with his wife and he was clearly determined to do all that he could to make things better for small-business owners across Australia. Digressing for a moment, his visit to the Sunshine Coast was much valued and worthwhile. It was a jam-packed itinerary. We were able to have a small business forum. He was able to do a business breakfast at Maleny. He was able to listen to various concerns from small business operators as well as to share ideas on how to make things better for this employment sector. He then visited Maleny Dairies, where we sampled some of the delightful gluten-free custard and yoghurts. Ross Hopper and David McKinney have developed a unique and special system of securing milk from local dairy farmers. They are able to pay them significantly more than the major contractors for their milk, securing the deals all with an old-fashioned handshake.

We also visited Maleny Cheese and then went on to Pipeline Surf Company at the Stockland shopping centre in Caloundra. We spoke about problems facing small business. The items such as those included in the legislation before the chamber today will make it so much easier for small business operators to operate in a cost-effective manner. I applaud the measures that are included in this bill.

We also visited Fink Engineering at Warana. They have been quietly doing their thing for some time, building and exporting hyperbaric treatment chambers. The latest one they have is nearing completion and due to be shipped to Montana in the United States of America. Interestingly, as an aside, the firm also built the largest hyperbaric chamber in the world, at 85 tonnes, which is now located at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney. These chambers are built like high-tech hospital rooms with the capability to be pressurised to assist with a wide range of medical conditions from diabetes. The treatments can range from helping to improve circulation and revitalise dying tissue, often negating the need for amputation, through to treating whitetail spider bites. The chambers and the medical research have come a long way from the small cylindrical and uncomfortable chambers that treat only bends and sports injuries.

We also visited Advanced Aquarium Technologies. This is a revolutionary and awe-inspiring business that builds massive aquaria all around the world. The tour of their warehouse was quite daunting, as we were shown massive slabs of clear acrylic sheets and towering moulds. They have built world class aquaria in countries right around the world. The small business shadow minister also visited an IGA and spoke about the retail sector.

The bills currently before the House are important. They are incremental bills. They are bills that indicate that as a country we are operating more as an entity than as eight or nine jurisdictions. They indicate that as a community we are prepared to make it easier for business to operate in a cost-effective way. I am particularly pleased to see that there has been cooperation around the country in the introduction of these bills, which will improve outcomes for small business, which will encourage employment in this important sector and which, of course, will be to the long-term benefit of the Australian economy.