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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7534


Senator KNOWLES (2:10 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Senator Abetz. Would the minister explain how the Howard government is promoting a more flexible and family-friendly work force in Australia's small businesses? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches and what the impact of those alternatives would be?


Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) —I thank Senator Knowles for her ongoing interest in small business policy. As my Liberal Western Australian colleagues would be especially aware, for some weeks now the government has been stating that changes to the industrial and workplace relations laws in Western Australia will have a devastating impact on Western Australian small businesses. The first concrete test of this was the recent Yellow Pages business index survey.

I was saddened but not surprised to read the headline `Small business unhappy' in the West Australian newspaper story about the survey. According to that report, more than one-third of small businesses owned in Western Australia say that the state Labor government is working against them. Only 13 per cent of respondents in the Yellow Pages survey said the state Labor government was supportive. That is even lower than Mr Crean's approval rating! Thirty-nine per cent said the state government worked against them. This is in stark contrast to the federal government, where the results show that small business support for federal government policy has in fact improved by five per cent. Small businesses are saying that the major reasons for the increase in small- and medium-enterprise support for the federal government are its policies and that it is trying to help small business. That is exactly what we are trying to do with our attempts to repeal Labor's unfair dismissal laws and our attempts to protect small business from secondary boycott.

Labor have continually said that their industrial relations reforms would have no impact on small business. Well, let us hear from the small businesses. A recent article said:

Emily's Country Kitchen is closing this month and Cafe Sails only opens during weekdays ... Dylans is preparing to by-pass the changes by using the Federal Australian Workplace Agreements, and Beachside Cafe pre-empted the changes and now predominantly employ staff as contract workers.

We have four small businesses, all prepared to have their names identified, saying the Western Australian Labor Party's industrial relations laws are costing jobs.

Jean-Claude, who operates a small business in Subiaco, is reported as saying that the new industrial relations laws meant his staff were now covered by three awards instead of one. So, when the Labor Party talks about red tape, all they need to do is look in the mirror to see what they have done in Western Australia, where small business workers are now covered by three awards instead of one. The report goes on to say:

No amount of juggling the roster could avoid heavy penalty rates for overtime and weekend work ... Chez Jean-Claude opened in 1997 with a staff of four. Now 42 people work there.

It also says that customers have been told that prices would rise 15 per cent because of the higher costs. If you want to know what the Labor Party does for small business, look no further than Western Australia. Small businesses are closing; small businesses are sacking people. Labor's anti small business policies are really antijob policies. Our small business policies are projob policies, and that is why we support small business.