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Wednesday, 20 November 2013
Page: 936

Mr BILLSON (DunkleyMinister for Small Business) (09:57): Shop Small is an important initiative that I was pleased to launch, along with the member for Deakin and the Prime Minister, in Croydon where we were trying to put a spotlight on the importance of small business and family enterprise not only to our economy but to the communities within which they are such an important part. I would like to congratulate American Express. They have brought this concept to Australia after it being very successful in the United States and also in parts of Europe. We think it is a really welcome measure. We see some of the bigger businesses getting alongside small businesses, promoting the interests and opportunities for small business offers. Other providers such as National Australia Bank, Virgin are involved in this initiative.

23 November is Shop Small Saturday. I encourage all members of this House and of the Senate to get alongside and spend some time with a small business person, to understand the challenges that they are facing, the courage that they are showing in mortgaging their houses and, in many cases, their firstborns to provide economic opportunities for themselves and others in their community and for our nation more generally. It is an important time and an important opportunity to make a statement about the importance of small business.

Under the previous government we saw the number of people deriving a livelihood out of being an employee in a small business actually decline. There were 412,000 fewer people at the end of Labor's period in government employed by a small business than was the case when they commenced. You actually saw a contraction in the small business employment contribution. Small business used to provide 53 per cent of every private sector job when the Howard government left office. By the time there was a change of government, just a few months ago, that was down to 43 per cent. There were 3,000 fewer small businesses employing people at the end of Labor's term than there were when Labor was first elected. So, despite the economy growing at or around trend rates and despite population growth, we saw the small business economy under pressure. 'Shop Small' is an important statement. It says that we see small businesses as a crucial part of our economy. They bring vitality and opportunity to neighbourhoods right across our continent. Let's get behind them. Let's not just say they are important; let's show that with our hard-earned money. It needs to go into small businesses if we value and want to continue to see their contribution. Small business is too big to ignore. Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to show that.

On another topic to do with size, there is a—and I apologise for the colloquial term—Bloody Big Swim happening in my electorate early in January. January is a great time to be on the Mornington Peninsula, a great coastline. I had not thought about swimming 11.2 kilometres as the best way of appreciating the coastline. I might say I will not be doing the swim, because it might bring on a by-election in my electorate! But this is important. The Bloody Big Swim is on 18 January. Get behind the work of the lifesaving clubs in our community and swim from Frankston to Mills Beach. It is an interesting way to see the peninsula. Be a part of the Bloody Big Swim.