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Monday, 24 March 2014
Page: 2945

Mr LAUNDY (Reid) (12:37): I just want to start by going through the ironies of this motion in my humble opinion. I have chased the member for Parramatta all over the building today, talking about small business. As far as I am concerned, if those opposite want to keep putting out their chin and talking about small business, I will be metaphorically quite prepared to keep whacking them on that chin.

Unlike most of them, and in the defence of the member at Parramatta, she does have a background in it. Unlike most of those opposite, I come from the sector. I come from family business and I understand the important part that it plays day in and day out not only in my electorate of Reid but in every electorate Australia-wide. I laugh at the suggestion that we are a government that will not provide certainty given the six chaotic years that those in this sector have just endured.

The second irony is that 412,000 people in this small business sector lost their jobs under the six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments. That is quite ironic because what we are talking about today is about 400,000 people, so line ball! In other words, in the six years that we have just had, we have lost the franchising sector or its equivalent in employment in our small business sector, and that is a disgrace—and I will move on to where I believe this government, if they are serious, can make a real difference to small and family business in a minute. But I say to the member for Parramatta, the member for Canberra and the member for Oxley: thank goodness that our government is at the helm and that our minister is in charge of implementing these changes, because they will be implemented. They will be implemented in a timely fashion.

I also find it ironic that we have been here for six months. What have I heard from the member for Oxley, followed by Canberra, followed by Parramatta, is that we have had a review and now we have been here six months. I say to the member for Parramatta that one of the keys to this is changing the powers that the ACCC have in enforcing franchising agreements that adversely impact people who take the ultimate decision to start a small or family business—for many of them, their first attempt to do so.

So I could not help but be more confident in the minister and confident that these will be enforced or implemented in a timely fashion, but I want to move the conversation. We have an employment and underemployment problem in this country, no doubt. Both sides agree. Where we disagree, and where I want to yell and scream, is how we will solve that. It will not be solved by big business, by unions or by government; it will be solved by SMEs, small- and medium-sized businesses. As of 2011—these are unfortunately the most recent reliable stats I can get my hands on—they employed 70 per cent of the workforce in Australia. They have been the backbone of this country—not only the electorate of Reid but every electorate Australia-wide—throughout our country's history, and that will not change.

They deserve better, and I will tell you how this plays out in the streets of Reid and the family and small businesses. The best thing those opposite can do, if they are serious about not only franchise operated businesses but all small businesses, is to get out of the way with the carbon tax. At every stage of the supply chain, this adds expense, so the end user, the business operator, has to pass this on to customers. Guess what: consumer confidence is shot and has been for six years. I go back to the previous point about the six years of uncertainty that we have endured. Traditionally family business and small business owners would pass on price increases to counter the fact that every line of their P&L has had an increase, but they cannot, so what do they do as a result? They change the way they run their business, and they do it in two main ways. Firstly, they casualise their workforce and lay off casual staff, working more hours themselves and simply not paying themselves to do so. Secondly, they alter their trading hours. They do not open on Sundays and public holidays. Guess what we get in Reid and in every other electorate: underemployment, which mainly strikes our youth. Casual employment is the pathway to our youth being employed.

I think this motion brought by the member for Oxley is just an example of a slight snapshot. You are talking about 4½ or five per cent of the employment in this country. If those opposite are serious about being the friends of small and family business, they should move the agenda from this on to things that make a real difference in the everyday lives not only of the people of Reid but the people in the electorates of Oxley, Canberra and Parramatta and other electorates, no matter where they live in Australia.

Debate interrupted.