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Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Page: 116


Mr ROBB (Goldstein) (21:42): Many people in my Melbourne bayside electorate of Goldstein rely for their jobs on the light and mid-tier manufacturing hub situated on the doorstep of my electorate in the Moorabbin and Braeside areas. This hub straddles parts of the electorates of the member for Isaacs and the member for Hotham, and in many ways I am speaking on their behalf with my comments tonight. It is the largest concentration of mid-tier manufacturing in Australia, with an output of over $5 billion from some 8,000 businesses, employing over 70,000 people. This is a centre of innovation and value-add: highly productive enterprises making a major contribution to both the local and national economy.

Its history lies over the last 30 or 40 years. Often these thousands of small and mid-tier businesses have moved on to the next generation of family members and leadership. Often they have moved well up the high-tech value-added chain to stay competitive, spending a considerable fortune in many cases on new technology, adding value to some simpler process that their parents or their predecessors started the business with.

These companies have been paying the price for the Gillard government's manic borrowing, which has pushed up interest rates and reduced the companies' access to finance for three years now. Yet, incredibly, Labor are still in the market borrowing $100 million a day. Every day they are out there competing against these 8,000 companies who are trying to access finance at a rate that allows them to keep their doors open. The average small business overdraft rate, for example, under this government is 10.23 per cent compared to an average of 8.89 per cent under Costello during his time in government. This represents the real borrowing costs to business, yet this government continues to show both its naivety and its lack of empathy by pointing to the base rate of 4.25 per cent. It is irrelevant to these small and mid-tier businesses.

In November 2007, the spread between the RBA cash rate and the average small business unsecured overdraft was 355 basis points. In January 2012 the spread was 600 basis points. Unfortunately, the Treasurer and finance minister have no understanding of, or empathy for, these facts. The record shows that a typical small business with an unsecured overdraft of some $200,000 was on average $223 a month better off under the coalition. Under this government, there is also an enormous extra pressure on local businesses in securing loans and rolling over their borrowing requirements. Many have had to close their doors because finance is not available because the government has been in the market for another $100 million every day of every week for the last three years. That is why we have a debt heading towards $136 billion—the biggest in our history. Compounding this situation for a number of local businesses, many of them in export markets, is the high Australian dollar. Again, Labor's loose fiscal policy has placed upward pressure on the exchange rate.

The government talks about fiscal consolidation, yet its spending in this year's budget alone is $100 million more than it spent in the 2007-08 budget. That is more than a 35 per cent increase in this year alone. What household could sustainably increase their spending by nearly 40 per cent over any three-year period? It is impossible without pushing up pressures on their budget and their ability to stay in good economic shape. On top of all this, this government is whacking on a carbon tax. It is madness. One company from my area with a $200 million business, who saw me yesterday and talked me through their situation, said that, after modelling the carbon tax, they are going to face a new annual tax of $1 million—one business and no compensation. Think of the impact that is going to have on jobs for decades to come in this local area of mine. (Time expired)

On indulgence, I table a petition by those who wish to save the Highett Grassy Woodland.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of Australian Citizens draws to the attention of the House the existence of, and the need to preserve, an environmentally and historically significant area of land, known as the Highett Grassy Woodland.

The Highett Grassy Woodland is approximately a 3 hectare section within the 9.3 hectare Commonwealth and Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) site in Highett, Victoria. The entire CSIRO site is in the process of being sold through a Federal Government process.

The Highett Grassy Woodland area contains a class of vegetation that is endangered in the bioregion, with the main trees being the regionally rare Yellow Box and River Red Gums.

The Highett area has been assessed by the relevant Council, Bayside City Council, as deficient in open space. This deficiency will increase with the State of Victoria's plans to increase population throughout metropolitan Melbourne.

We therefore ask the House to take any administrative action available to the House, during the sale process of the CSIRO site, which will enable the protection and preservation in perpetuity of at least 3 hectares of the site for the conservation of the Grassy Woodland and for passive open space, which will be a profound benefit to the community, now and into the future.

from 1,960 citizens

Petition received.