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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10105


Mr CONROY (Charlton) (13:09): This motion demonstrates yet again the basic economic illiteracy of the coalition. All they have been able to deliver so far has been empty rhetoric regarding support for small business. In this motion they have plucked one single figure out of a period of outstanding economic growth between 2007 and 2013. It does not matter where the jobs are grown in Australia. It only matters that we grow Australian jobs. Under Labor, almost a million jobs were created. During the global financial crisis, when we saw tens of millions of jobs stripped out of economies worldwide, we grew just under a million jobs. This motion, which points to one single statistic, demonstrates the economic illiteracy of those opposite. It is not a surprise given the fact that they are led by a Prime Minister who Peter Costello said cannot be trusted on economics, a Prime Minister who slept through one of the most crucial votes on stimulus packages during the global financial crisis.

I am proud of Labor's support for small businesses when we were in government. I am proud of the fact that we implemented a $6,500 instant asset write-off that allowed small businesses around this country to instantly write off $6,500 worth of capital purchases, whether it was a new fridge and freezer for a cafe or a new piece of equipment for a machinery shop. This was a great initiative that is now under threat. We also put in place a new $350 million venture capital fund to ensure that the innovators that the member for Robertson nominated in her contribution could get the capital to grow their businesses so that they did not stay as small businesses but grew into medium and large-sized businesses.

We put in place the Australian Jobs Act—a great piece of legislation that compelled large projects to give Australian companies an opportunity to win work on their projects. This was matched with requiring large-scale companies that applied for $2 billion or more of EPBS concessions to put in place Australian supply chain offices in their global headquarters, to give Australian small businesses and SMEs a great opportunity to win work not just here but overseas in the large supply chains of large multinational corporations.

This is now all under threat. We have seen that the instant asset write-off has been withdrawn and withdrawn retrospectively. Those on the other side like to talk about the red tape. But imagine withdrawing, halfway through a tax year, a tax measure in the tax instant asset write-off. That means millions of small businesses who have already claimed deductions for this will have to go back to level one and pay more tax because of this government. Talk about imposing a red tape burden. They have also committed to repealing the Australian Jobs Act. They are effectively saying that they will not compel large projects built in this country to give Australian companies and Australian workers a first go at winning work on these projects. That demonstrates not just the economic illiteracy of the government but their hollow rhetoric when it comes to supporting small businesses.

Let us look at their broader employment record so far. It is an ugly piece of work. We have got the highest unemployment rate since November 2002. On trend terms, unemployment is at 6.2 per cent compared to the average under Labor of 5.1 per cent during a period of the GFC. We have an unemployment queue that is 67,000 people longer than when they came to power. We have 32,000 more long-term unemployed than when they came to power. We have the highest share of long-term unemployed amongst those looking for work since this statistic began to be collected in 2001.

Let me recap that. We have got the highest unemployment rate for 12 years and we have got the biggest share of long-term unemployed amongst those looking for work for over a decade. This is a real concern. We should be debating how to boost employment in this country and not attacking the previous government's records, which were quite fine, in my view.

We will see even worse coming up in terms of the impact of the budget. We have seen $1 billion cut from training that would have supported small businesses. We have seen $5.5 billion stripped out of the higher education sector that would have provided graduates for small businesses to lead innovation. We have seen over $1 billion in cuts to child care—child care that lets employees of small business go to work and make a contribution. We have seen their punitive attacks on Newstart which makes it harder for job seekers to find work.

The truth is that this government's economic performance is appalling so far. I have no hope that it will improve. Instead of concentrating on looking at how they can improve this performance, they are just determined to attack the Rudd-Gillard government's legacy on economics, which was fine. Look at their great stewardship during the global financial crisis, where we led the world in our response and grew nearly a million jobs. I condemn this motion.

Debate adjourned.