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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 83


Senator DEAN SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (18:47): I rise this afternoon to make a few brief contributions to the debate on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Accelerated Depreciation for Small Business Entities) Bill 2018 and in doing so I highlight the fact that this is the latest in what has been a suite of initiatives from the coalition government over the last five years unashamedly aimed at supporting small businesses, supporting the families that operate small businesses and supporting the many Australians who get to benefit by working in small businesses or—as Senator Abetz and Senator Paterson have already mentioned—are the beneficiaries of the significant sponsorship opportunities that small businesses provide to our community.

This is the latest in a suite of initiatives, as I said. It joins small business tax cuts and the instant asset write-off initiatives. It's part of our red tape relief program and it's part of our efforts to protect businesses from union thuggery—I will come to that in a moment. It's part of our small business initiatives that drive fairer competition and exporter opportunities and, importantly, provide initiatives to support better, easier and smoother cash flow for businesses across the country. Specifically, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Accelerated Depreciation for Small Business Entities) Bill 2018 unashamedly, as I said before, backs small business as part of the government's plan for a stronger economy.

The 2018-19 budget announced that this bill will extend the $20,000 instant asset write-off by a further 12 months to 30 June 2019 for businesses with aggregated annual turnovers of less than $10 million. This will improve cash flow for small business, providing a boost to small business activity and investment for a further year. Around 3.3 million incorporated and unincorporated businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $10 million will be eligible to access the $20,000 instant asset write-off.

Small business stakeholders strongly support the continuation of this measure, as would be expected. In extending the $20,000 threshold for a further year, the government has sought to strike a balance between helping small businesses' cash flow and investment and the revenue impact on the budget. The immediate deductibility threshold and the balance at which the pool can be immediately deducted are normally $1,000. This is yet another initiative from this coalition government which, over the last five years, has demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting Australian businesses and to supporting the small businesses in our community who are the backbone of it.

This is particularly important because, as we start to prepare ourselves and get ready for the great electoral contest that is the next federal election, whenever that might be, often people will say: 'Why is this distinction between the coalition and Labor important?' It is because, as we've seen and heard and read about, Labor is committed to conducting a war—a guerilla war, if you like—on small business. That's a war Labor has already initiated and will continue, should—heaven forbid—they be elected to government at the next federal election.

You might ask: how is it exactly that Labor is waging a war on Australian small businesses? Let me just draw your attention to a couple of points. The first, of course, is that Labor is opposed to—more than that; Labor would reverse—the coalition's small business tax cuts. Labor's new tax on trusts will hit at least 200,000 small businesses, the people they employ and the families who run them. Labor's energy policies include the 50 per cent renewable target, which, as we've witnessed for ourselves in South Australia, would increase the cost to small businesses as a result of increased power bills and, of course, the risk to the reliability of affordable energy to those small businesses.

Critically, there is an issue that will most definitely get closer attention and that will sharpen the differentiation between the coalition and Labor at the next election, and that is Labor's plans to reverse the independent umpire's decision to modify Sunday penalty rates. It would mean that small businesses would pay higher penalty rates than big businesses do to big unions. This, I think, is a critical issue. I'm hoping that, as we get closer to the election, people will understand the very real difference here: Labor's plans on penalty rates aid and abet big unions at the expense of employment opportunities, often for younger Australians.

Of course, critically, Labor will roll over to increasingly militant unions, who have made their intentions very, very clear. They will demand a power to strike, more power to run into and control businesses and inspect their books, and more deals to entrench their power. If Labor is elected, Labor will want their union law-breakers to become instead the union lawmakers.

It's often misrepresented that the Liberal Party is the party of big business. In fact, the Liberal Party is the party of small and medium-sized enterprises and, importantly, of consumers. Everything we seek to do is to empower consumers, give consumers the best possible choices and, of course, decrease costs for consumers as they go about providing a better or more manageable cost of living.

But there is a very, very real risk, or a real choice, that confronts Australians as we go to the next election, and that is whether or not they want to give Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, real authority, because, by giving Bill Shorten and his Labor Party—and, indeed, his trade union mates—more power and authority over the Australian economy, and more power and authority over small businesses, what they'll be seeking to do is to turn this country into a trade union movement. Bill Shorten has made this statement, crystal clear: if he had his way, he would run Australia the way that he runs trade union movements. He has said that he would like to run this country like he has run trade union movements. That could not be a good outcome for small businesses. It could not be a good outcome for the families who run them and the people who work in them. And it certainly would not be a good outcome for consumers.

Why wouldn't it be a good outcome? I think the answer lies in the performance of what it is that Labor unions do. What is it that Labor unions do? We have heard a lot in the last few days about bullying, thuggery and those sorts of things, but let me just draw attention—

Senator Chisholm interjecting

Senator DEAN SMITH: Thank you very much for that, Senator Chisholm, because I was just getting to the behaviour of the CFMEU. I was just coming to the behaviour of the CFMEU. It's not what I say about them. It's not even what you and Senator Cameron say about them. It's what Justice Mortimer of the Federal Court of Australia said about the CFMEU in 2016.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator DEAN SMITH: This was in 2016. This was the behaviour of the CFMEU. Let's have look at this. I will summarise the case for you. You might even know it, Senator Cameron. You might even be very familiar with it. The CFMEU was penalised for contravening the coercion power provisions of the Fair Work Act. The CFMEU blockaded the Regional Rail Link package B project site in Footscray because the head contractors refused to employ a CFMEU delegate. I am telling this story because Bill Shorten, by his own admission, says he wants to run—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Smith, I have been quite lenient. Please refer to those in the other place by their correct titles.

Senator DEAN SMITH: Mr Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, has said in his own words that he would like to run the country like he ran the trade union movement. I am sharing this with you, Senator Cameron. I can see your face. It looks like you are familiar with the case. Are you familiar with the case? That was rhetorically asked.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Smith, I remind you to make your remarks to the chair.

Senator DEAN SMITH: Let's have a look. What did Justice Mortimer of the Federal Court of Australia say in 2016? This is what was said:

… there is a conscious and deliberate strategy employed by the CFMEU and its officers to engage in disruptive, threatening and abusive behaviour towards employers without regard to the lawfulness of that action, and impervious to the prospect of prosecution and penalties.

This is how the alternative Prime Minister would like to run the country. That's a very stark warning sign for Australians, small businesses and anyone involved in enterprise in this country of the very real risk, the very real peril, should Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, get elected as the alternative Prime Minister.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Accelerated Depreciation for Small Business Entities) Bill 2018 is just the latest measure in a suite of measures that aims to keep the Australian economy strong, that aims to keep Australians employed and that will continue to deliver strong economic growth.