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Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Page: 87

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (19:41): Could I say before I start, Mr Deputy Speaker, that it is good to see you walking around the halls of this place again, especially the outer corridors of Parliament House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr KJ Thomson ): You are too kind.

Mr PERRETT: Like the member for Wright, I rise to speak in support of the Excise Amendment (Reducing Business Compliance Burden) Bill 2011 and the Customs Amendment (Reducing Business Compliance Burden) Bill 2011 and thank him for parts of his contribution supporting this piece of legislation. It is a simple but important amendment to help reduce red tape and administration costs for Australian small businesses. As both sides of the chamber would admit, small businesses are the engine room of the economy, particularly jobs growth and innovation. Since the floods in my electorate last year, I have spent a lot of time dealing with small businesses. In fact, I had a gentleman in on Friday, Mr Cheung, who has a furniture store at Rocklea, and he talked about how much he had been impacted by the flood. It went almost to the first floor of his business. His home just down the road was damaged and he has not yet returned. He is living upstairs in his factory. I know that he wants to employ more people as he has a program that employs people with a few disabilities. It would be great to give him as much support as possible. Certainly, businesses in my area were hit hard by the floods.

One of the businesses that many people would know, the Steve Parrish publishing company, was also hard hit and lost an incredible amount of stock. I know their products go all over Australia and all over the world, so they have been hit by both the changing tourism numbers and by floods. One of the local builders, Dene Crocker, told me how hard it was to go back to customers and make sure they had enough confidence to come back to do extensions. I also mention in passing that Dene Crocker's daughter Elizabeth Crocker has just been appointed school captain at West End State School. Congratulations, Libby.

We know that small businesses are important but today small businesses are required to collect excise and customs duties on behalf of the Commonwealth government. Excise duties are imposed on a small range of goods produced in Australia, including spirits, beer, tobacco and tobacco products as well as petroleum based and alternative fuels. Businesses making, dealing, manufacturing or storing these excisable goods require a licence from the Australian Taxation Office. Licence holders are currently required to lodge an excise return every single week. The return records the delivery and movement of goods and the payment of correct duties to the tax office. These bills before the House will enable small businesses to instead pay these duties on a monthly cycle. That will reduce the number of returns to be lodged each year from 52 to 12—less paperwork and less time spent dealing with government red tape. It is necessary government red tape but red tape nevertheless.

Businesses who gain permission to switch to a monthly reporting cycle will be required to lodge their return and pay duty by the 21st day of the following month. Further, all businesses who choose to continue to operate under the seven-day settlement period, which currently runs from Monday to Sunday, will be able to apply for a new weekly period to begin on a day of their choosing—that is, a day that better suits them, their time constraints and the availability of their staff. Thus, businesses will have greater flexibility to match their reporting time frames with the nature of their business. Those small businesses with no duty liabilities may be able to negotiate an even longer reporting cycle.

These bills also introduce greater flexibility for gaseous fuel distributors who lodge returns on the seven-day cycle. Generally, small businesses lodge a return on or before the sixth business day following the end of each seven-day period. Gaseous fuel businesses, however, require special treatment because excise and excise equivalent customs duty applies—unlike for liquid fuels—only to the transport use of gaseous fuels. Gas distributors need extra time to consolidate sales records to distinguish between fuel supplied for transport and non-transport uses.

These sensible bills before the chamber build on the Gillard government's proud record of real and practical support for Australian small businesses. We are helping to bolster business, support the economy and protect and create jobs—particularly protect jobs. We are doing this by shredding red tape, reducing compliance costs and making taxes fairer for all Australian businesses. As I said, they are the engine room of jobs and innovation. I remind all Australians of the innovative measures of the Labor governments of the 42nd and 43rd parliaments. One example is the introduction, following the GFC, of the 50 per cent tax break for eligible assets. I have had so many small businesses thank me for that initiative. Another example is the $10 million used to help small businesses go online so that they can increase their productivity. That fits in with the greater productivity agenda behind our NBN initiative—something that occasionally people rail against but something that is essential if you look at how much the world has changed. So many things these days are being done online—booking travel, buying music, going on a holiday or even buying groceries. That is where the productivity initiatives will come from—from having things like the NBN. I look forward to small businesses taking that opportunity to go online. It will mean they can compete with the rest of the world. Another Labor government initiative was the change to PAYG instalments to ensure better cash flow. All of these measures together help to support our hardworking small businesses.

Businesses are looking forward to the cut in company taxes from 30 per cent down to 29 per cent. That will benefit 2½ million companies, many of which are small businesses—not the small businesses of battlers like Twiggy, Gina and Clive; these are fair dinkum small businesses who will appreciate the cut. How it can be argued with a straight face that we need to protect Gina, Clive and Twiggy rather than 2½ million small businesses, I do not understand. I am yet to hear a logical argument from those opposite but I look forward to it and to the logical argument behind the member for Warringah's idea of whacking a 1.7 per cent tax on all those businesses. It is quite incredible.

This bill is another important step along the way to supporting jobs, supporting the economy and making sure that Australia has a bright future. I commend the bill to the House.