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Tuesday, 21 June 1994
Page: 1782


Senator FORSHAW —My question is directed to the Minister for Small Business, Customs and Construction. I understand that the minister recently hosted the 10th National Small Business Forum in Canberra consisting of representatives of major small business organisations. What matters were discussed at the Small Business Forum? What were the principal outcomes arising from the forum?


Senator SCHACHT —Mr Deputy President—


Senator Kernot —You need to have another go.


Senator SCHACHT —Senator Kernot interjects. As I said yesterday, we are delighted that the Australian Democrats have suddenly discovered small business. I do not know how long this will last but we are very pleased that Senator Kernot has discovered it. This is a big improvement on members of the opposition, who never ask a question about small business other than Senator Boswell, whom I have acknowledged before as the only one on the other side who has a genuine interest in this matter.

  The present Leader of the Opposition, Mr Downer, at one stage in his career was the shadow minister for small business. After a short period as shadow minister—he announced that there would be a major new policy on small business, which never saw the light of day—in May 1989 he was dumped and sacked as shadow minister for small business and sent to the back bench. When Mr Downer gets up now and talks about his interest in small business we can only hope that he does a better job than when he was shadow minister in 1988-89. This is typical of the opposition, which has no interest in small business whatsoever.

  The Small Business Forum held on 10 June was another successful meeting of that forum at which nearly 30 small business and industry organisations were represented. Senator Kernot would be interested that the matters discussed included presentations from the Commonwealth Development Bank and the Export Finance Insurance Corporation about the availability of finance to small business and how the industry statement released in early May has made it easier for small business to get access to that finance. We also had presentations from Senator Cook, who explained the creation of Ausindustry, and Mr Gary Johns, the Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations.


Senator Kemp —What did he mean to say?


Senator SCHACHT —I want to point out, over the heckling from those opposite—who never ask a question about small business—that, as a result of that presentation from Mr Johns, we are now establishing arrangements whereby a subgroup of the Small Business Forum will hold regular meetings with Gary Johns to discuss issues obviously relating to issues of industrial relations as they affect small business. The Small Business Forum was very pleased to be able to have that structure established, where it can put its views, even if they are not the same as the government's views. We are not afraid of hearing the constructive criticism which overwhelmingly is the basis of the work of the Small Business Forum.

  The Small Business Forum, established by this government, is a great success. It is much more successful than the effort Mr Downer made when he was shadow minister and much better than the effort of those opposite—who never ask a question. To show the strength of this organisation, I will table for the Senate the list of the membership of the Small Business Forum and the Small Business Coalition—organisations which, obviously, most senators opposite have no idea even exist.