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Tuesday, 12 November 2002
Page: 6080

Senator SANTORO (2:39 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Senator Abetz. Will the minister inform the Senate of the challenges facing Australia's small businesses? How is the Howard government assisting small business to grow and to employ more Australians?

Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) —I thank Senator Santoro for his genuine interest in assisting small business. Senator Santoro has a strong history of supporting small business, particularly in his home state of Queensland.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senators on my left! Can we have some quiet so we can at least hear what Senator Abetz has to say.

Senator ABETZ —Just like Senator Barnett, Senator Santoro has taken the opportunity of asking his first question about helping small business. There can be no doubt in the minds of our fellow Australians as to which side of politics supports Australian small businesses, their families and their employees. It is the Howard government. Many coalition senators, like Senator Santoro, have asked questions about Australian small businesses and the issues that affect them.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator ABETZ —Despite all the interjections coming from the opposition, the Australian people will not believe that, even though it has now been one year and two days since the re-election of the Howard government, the Australian Labor Party have failed to ask one single question about small business. The Australian Democrats have similarly failed but at least the Democrats, to their credit, are sitting there in guilty silence, unlike the Australian Labor Party, which are trying to overcome their deficiency by sheer noise!

The PRESIDENT —Senator George Campbell, please come to order.

Senator ABETZ —The Australian Labor Party have not asked a single question about small business, which is the engine room of job creation in this nation. It represents 1.2 million separate business enterprises, and the Labor Party are simply not interested. But that is not surprising when you realise that 20 out of the 28 Labor senators are former trade union operatives. They have no understanding or interest in looking after the interests of small business.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator ABETZ —Isn't it interesting how the Australian Labor Party fail to engage in the policies but seek to interject so the government's message of support does not get through to the Australian people? Australian small businesses face many challenges. The most important one is the unfair dismissal laws. The Australian Labor Party left more than just a legacy of $96 billion of government debt; they also left the legacy of the unfair dismissal laws, which we have been trying to repeal ever since we were elected in 1996. The Labor Party's opposition to that repeal is denying 50,000 jobs from being created in this nation—

Senator Cook —Untrue!

Senator ABETZ —and 50,000 jobs will have a social, psychological and economic flow-on benefit to our fellow Australians.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Cook, I ask you to withdraw that statement.

Senator Cook —I do not know that I said anything unparliamentary, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT —I believe I heard you.

Senator Cook —If you think I did, I will withdraw whatever you refer to, but there is nothing that the Labor Party is doing that would prevent 50,000 new jobs being created.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Cook, you are out of order. Please take your seat, unless you are making a point of order.

Senator Cook —There is nothing the Labor Party is doing that will not create those jobs—nothing; it is a lie.

Senator ABETZ —Just in case the Australian people were wondering why the Australian Labor Party dumped Senator Cook as deputy leader, I think that display will tell them all. The small business community of this country has the opportunity of creating another 50,000 jobs for our fellow Australians. The social benefits that would flow from that are immense. The Labor Party is standing in the way of that important reform. When the Franchise Council were asked about unfair dismissal, 78 per cent of their respondents indicated the importance of repealing this law. We as a government are committed to supporting small business. (Time expired)