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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3135


Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (16:22): I am here to talk on the MPI on the adverse effects of the government on small business. I come from a small business background. Overall, the effect of the government is negative. There is a lot of uncertainty out there; there is a lack of direction from this government and this is confusing small business no end. There is absolutely no confidence out there in the field. People are preferring to put their money in the bank instead of investing in their business. Their business is industry for Australia and jobs for Australians.

Mr Randall: That's right.

Mr O'DOWD: Under the Howard government, workers—my friends, your friends—had jobs. What is more, they had took a 20 per cent increase in pay versus the CPI. Under this government, since 2007—

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The member for Flynn is not being assisted by his colleagues. The member for Flynn has the call.

Mr O'DOWD: I think they are doing a great job. You cannot talk about small business without talking about big business, because a lot of small business works for big business. That is what you must consider. The week after the carbon tax was announced in this House, Rio Tinto, a big multinational company, put the Boyne smelter at Boyne Island on the market. It also put its 42 per cent share of the Gladstone power house on the market.

This MPI is about small business, but I am saying that Rio Tinto employed 4,000 people in Gladstone and a lot of subcontractors, who are small—

Mr Hartsuyker: The government will turn Rio Tinto into a small business!

Mr O'DOWD: That is right.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: One person has the call: the member for Flynn.

Mr O'DOWD: They talk about Clive Palmer; Clive Palmer is the man who saved a thousand jobs in Townsville at the zinc refinery. How many people does Gina Rinehart employ?

The wind-back on the solar hot water scheme: does anybody in the government realise what that meant to those businesses that had geared up to look after that industry? It just flattened them—bang! Finished. Those opposite rave on about the BER. I could tell you something about the BER. There were four examples in my area where small business could have done the job of building the BER—

Mr Billson: Didn't get a look in.

Mr O'DOWD: They did not get a look in. Do you know what? Their price was up to 50 per cent less.

Mr Hartsuyker: How much?

Mr O'DOWD: $900,000 from—

Dr Mike Kelly: It does sound like ShamWow.

Mr Bruce Scott: No, it's true.

Mr O'DOWD: It is true. I have got the evidence. Actually, I have given the evidence to the Senate. Reed Constructions was a favoured son of this government. Where is it now? Where are the contractors—the subbies—going to get their money from? There is nearly $100 million owed to subbies. Where has the money gone? The overall cost of the BER was about $4,300 per square metre to build libraries and that type of thing. The price to build a four-bedroom home with a double carport is about $1,200 per square metre. Where did that money go? How come Reed Constructions is in administration? I do not know.

Even the Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011, which was discussed today in the House, is more red tape and more costs to small business. What small business hates is getting more bits of paper under their nose and being told: 'This is more regulation. You will do this; you will do that.' We have a taxation system. If you ring the tax office to get clarity on a problem you might have, depending who you ring, you might get five different answers. If you ring five different times you get five different answers.

Mr Bruce Scott interjecting

Mr O'DOWD: Unbelievable! What was that?

Mr Bruce Scott: Are they answered in Australia?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Flynn has the call, and he is meant to be giving the speech.

Mr O'DOWD: Would you control the House, please!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I might save us all and sit you down, if you are not careful!

Mr O'DOWD: The biggest problem affecting small business is productivity. Our productivity is the worst in the world.

Dr Mike Kelly interjecting

Mr O'DOWD: You laugh, Member for Eden-Monaro, you clown: it is the worst in the world.

The SPEAKER: The honourable member will withdraw the use of that term.

Mr Randall: Is 'clown' unparliamentary?

The SPEAKER: It is all about the context.

Mr O'DOWD: I will withdraw, Mr Speaker. Small business is faced with a renewable energy tax. That was passed by both sides of the House, but it will have a big impact on business. It will add at least 10 per cent to costs, and that is before the carbon tax. The carbon tax has been well documented and talked about. Not only will it affect the 500 biggest polluters in Australia, those awful big companies that we used to encourage to come to Australia and set up their businesses, it will affect every man, woman and child in Australia. Make no mistake about that. It is not just going to affect the 500. IR laws are inflexible. That is why you are flat out getting a cup of coffee on a Saturday or a Sunday. From five o'clock on a Friday afternoon until eight o'clock Monday morning, you will pay dearly if you want a cup of coffee anywhere in Australia. We have a tourism industry. And guess what? Tourism does not really start until after five o'clock on any day of the week. Yet the laws are that stringent and that tough; there is no bending them.

Mr Bruce Scott: There are penalties everywhere.

Mr O'DOWD: Yes, there are penalties everywhere. (Time expired)