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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10097


Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (12:39): The motion that is before us today actually demonstrates a number of great myths that the Liberal government and the Nationals like to perpetuate about small business. It is also a wonderful piece of window-dressing and the pretence that there is a government actually doing something for small business. In the previous contribution, what I did discover is that the member for Deakin and I do have something in common. I, too, grew up in a small business family. My parents owned a second-hand furniture business on the Sunshine Coast, and I spent many summers working there as a child. It was just what you did. We did not get school holidays like most other kids because we were helping out in the shop.

They had one employee, but predominantly the business was being run by my parents—they did the work. That is the traditional small business. What is not being talked about in this debate and this motion is the changing face of small business. There has been an explosion of people who are being forced into their own small businesses through subcontracting and this is not your traditional face of small business. Take, for example, the cleaning industry, where cleaners are being forced into their own ABN subcontracting arrangements. They do not have the same on-costs as traditional small businesses: they do not have rent to pay and they do not have the set-up costs involved in running a small business—they do not have those overheads. They have a company that they subcontract to. Quite often they receive their uniforms from the company, they receive their supply of chemicals from the company and they are paid by the company. So within this debate about small business, we need to start talking about the definition, not just in terms of the number of employees but also in terms of the nature of small business today.

What we are also seeing from this government—and they like to talk about the good things they are doing—is that they do not talk about what they are taking away. We have seen this government backing away from key reforms introduced by the former Labor government that really made a difference—tax incentives that really made a difference to small businesses. This is where I am talking about what this government has introduced which is $5 billion worth of tax assistance to small businesses. This includes increasing what Labor did in government which was to increase the instant tax write-off threshold from $1,000 to $6,500. This allowed businesses to reinvest in their own equipment, which could be anything from upgrading or purchasing a new ute to other equipment they may need for their business. This government has also abolished tax relief to allow carry-back tax losses for up to a million dollars that businesses can receive as a refund against their previous tax paid. These are measures that were helping small business that this government has now abolished.

In this motion, the government talks about what they have done for government procurement. Well, let's talk about what they are doing in defence procurement. Just a couple of local examples: ADA is a manufacturer in the Bendigo electorate. They were quite excited to hear that this government had awarded a new defence manufacturing contract to ADA in Australia. But that work will not be performed in Australia. That work will go to the lower-priced jobs overseas—to small business and businesses overseas. So when it comes to procurement this government may have introduced some new guidelines, but the actual work when it comes to procurement is still going to overseas companies.

There is no greater example of that than what is happening in defence manufacturing. I know from talking locally to Thales Australia and the supply chain, that when it comes to the Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle—that great iconic defence vehicle that has been manufactured in Bendigo—there are a number of small businesses that feed into that supply chain. They are worried about the next contract at Bendigo Thales. Will this government do the right thing and award that contract, the Hawkeye contract, to Bendigo Thales? There are a number of small businesses locally that will benefit from that contract.

This motion is a bad motion. It tries to perpetuate these myths about Labor and small business. Worse still, it is window-dressing—window-dressing that tries to cover up what this government is actually doing to hurt small business. That is why I am encouraging people to vote against this motion. There are a number of areas that we could go on about, about how this government is hurting small business when it comes to the RET and what that is going to do to our solar industry and when it comes to manufacturing as I have talked about. When they talk about this great red-tape repeal— (Time expired)