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Thursday, 5 December 1974

Mr ENDERBY (Minister for Manufacturing Industry) - It is true that the Government recently announced the setting up of a National Small Business Bureau which is designed specifically to be of aid to small businesses. In doing this the Government recognised that small businesses account for a very significant number of the overall businesses in Australia and that they face problems that are not faced by large businesses. In particular, they face problems with regard to finance, accessibility to expertise, market information and matters of that sort. It was for these reasons that the National Small Business Bureau was brought into being. It is at an early stage as yet, but it is hoped that ultimately there will be offices of the Bureau in each of the capital cities and regional centres of Australia. Recently it was announced that a counselling service would be set up on a pilot basis in Sydney and Perth as from 1 January and it is hoped that as from early in 1975 a series of management aid booklets will begin to appear and be made available to small businessmen.

Implicit in the honourable member's question is the notion of the vulnerability of small businesses in their relationships with big business. In this regard, of course, the Government has moved very strongly with its anti-restrictive trade practices legislation. This is because business that is in a monopolistic situation can often work against the interests of small businesses. The trade practices legislation gives a great amount of protection to small businesses. I should also say that the recently announced special assistance scheme to non-metropolitan areas also is a means of channelling funds to businesses in non-metropolitan areas. For instance, it would help firms affected by certain categories of entitlement in regard to their liquidity problems. The recent devaluation of the Australian currency is another example which could work to the advantage of small business.

I should also say that I am advised that the Reserve Bank of Australia has indicated to the trading banks that enterprises, big and small. which are soundly managed and financially viable should not be prevented from carrying on merely because of a temporary lack of funds. In that context, I understand that the trading banks have increased substantially their lending over the last four or five weeks. So the Government has been very active in this regard because it has recognised the enormously important role played by small business in Australia.

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