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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3130


Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (16:02): I rise today to speak to this MPI:

The adverse effects of Government policy on small businesses in Australia.

I would like to start by recognising and heralding all of those positive achievements that this government has made for small business! But I actually should start to address the real issue, and that is the issue of the negative policies that have impacted on small business. I have just heard from the Minister for Small Business how he is walking amongst small business, how he is listening. Minister, take the earmuffs off! If you took the earmuffs off you would hear what they were saying to you. You would hear of the record bankruptcies that are occurring. You would hear about the struggles that people are going through because of the lack of confidence driven by an incompetent Prime Minister with a Labor Party so focused on its internal fighting that it cannot be focused on the future of this nation. This government has undermined consumer confidence and it has undermined business confidence, and therefore we are seeing a reduction in investment because there is no confidence.

In fact, this is the government that said it would do a one for one: it would repeal the red tape and regulation that business goes through—in particular, the burden on small business. Since 2007 this government has introduced or amended 16,173 new regulations. It has repealed 79. I can understand why it does not understand small business, because it does not understand simple mathematics—

Mr Billson: Trust me! 205 to one!

Mr BALDWIN: '205 to one', the shadow minister for small business says—because 16,173 does not equate to 79.

In relation to red tape, there was the industries for Australia review conducted by the member for Indi and the member for Groom. We actually did a separate one for the tourism industry. That identified a range of issues that business operators were facing. In fact, off the back of that our leader determined that we should have a special task force looking at addressing the issues of red tape. That is being headed up by Arthur Sinodinos, with a high-quality team.

How can you understand small business if you have never been there? How can you understand small business if you have never had skin in the game? I know the shadow minister, the member for Dunkley, has been in small business. He was a retailer. He has been through the tough times. He knows what it is like to have the mortgage over the family home, to worry about whether there are going to be people coming into the shop. What we have here on the other side are people who go from school to university to union to the parliament. They have not had a small business. They have never had their own money on the line; they have never had skin in the game. They have never had to address the issues of economic constraints and bad government policy. The only bad policy that they have within themselves is when they have a leadership battle and wonder whether the Left or the Right or the inside out are going to take the leadership.

When I look at the tourism industry, some 85 per cent of the players in the tourism industry are small to medium operators. They are part of the team that employs 500,000 people in the tourism industry. If I add hospitality into that, there are 500,000 people in the hospitality industry. They actually understand small business, because every morning they get up and face issues such as weather—and weather can be an impediment in the tourism industry; they face the issues of whether the dollar is going up or down; they face the issues of government confidence and whether people have disposable income in their pockets to spend on their business; and they face the issues of industrial relations reforms, which have driven a lot of businesses out of business. When I was with the member at Margaret River we were talking to restaurant and cafe owners that just shut now on Saturdays and Sundays because they cannot afford the rates, because this government has not understood what is required to keep businesses, and in particular small businesses, going. In parliament this week and in previous weeks they have been attacking Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer. But the Minister for Small Business should have been standing up for them because a large sector of their spending is on employing or engaging or contracting small to medium enterprises. This government would rather take away from or crush those who do the employing.

When you have been only in a union and you have never been out there in the real workforce, you do not understand that without employers you do not have any employees. If you do not create an environment in which employers have the confidence to invest and grow their business, if the market conditions are not right, then guess what? You do not have employees. That is why we have seen a reduction in employment in this country. That is why we have seen a reduction in the number of businesses operating in this country.

When the Howard government left office, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated there were 5,061,000 people employed by the Australian small business sector. This was 51.3 per cent of the private sector workforce. By June 2009, when that mob were in government, the ABS reported small business job losses of more than 300,000 and a decline in the private sector workforce employed in small business to 48 per cent. Under a new ABS statistical methodology, introduced in June 2010, the small business employment level was estimated at 4,747,000, representing 47.2 per cent of the total private sector workforce. Since the change of government, there are 14,500 fewer employing small businesses. So when I see this minister stand up and boast how important it is to have a minister at cabinet level, I can understand that because, under their previous arrangement, we have seen 14,500 fewer small businesses.

We have seen record bankruptcies under this government. It is not hard to understand why when the banks are calling in loans because of the competition for finance when this government is borrowing $100 million a day, competing with the very businesses that need that money to fund their overdrafts and their investments in their business.

One of the key essences of being in business is developing a business plan. You put into it all the factors, you model all the conditions and you search out the best information so you understand that you can invest with confidence, go forward and stick to your plan. When this Prime Minister was asked what modelling had been done for the tourism industry in particular and on small business, the response was, 'None.' No modelling was done. She had spoken to a couple of people. She had a handle on it, she said. She has never been in small business; how could she have a handle on it? Without modelling, without understanding all of the conditions and factors, particularly when you bring in a great big new tax—the carbon tax—you cannot understand.

This incompetent government talks about the need for tax cuts. You do not have to be Einstein to work out that you do not need tax cuts if you do not impose new taxes on people. This government is giving on one hand while they are robbing with the other. This is the equivalent of putting a bandaid on your arm after you purposely slash your wrist. You would not need the bandaid if you did not slash your wrist. This government is so incompetent that it cannot even understand the flow of direction of business decision making. In fact, the only modelling that was done was by the TTF, and TTF came out and said that in the tourism industry there would be 6,400 job losses, predominantly in regional and rural Australia. It said the impact would be $731 million off the bottom line and the only beneficiary of a carbon tax would be outbound tourism.

We are suffering a tourism deficit in this country. Back in 2001, we posted a $3.6 billion tourism surplus in Australia. This year we are heading to an $8.7 billion deficit and in part that is because of the bad policy and bad direction of this government and, after 1 July, it will only get worse when this government imposes a carbon tax the likes of which never before seen.