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Thursday, 5 November 1992
Page: 2715

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Mr HICKS (1.10 p.m.) —Mr Deputy Speaker, like you, I spend a lot of time in my electorate travelling around and speaking to people. One particular group that I have taken a great deal of notice of recently is the small business sector. Within that small business sector, of course, I include farmers. The small business sector is really that sector of the community that employs most people. Until we do something to get the infrastructure right, to get small business back on its feet again, we are going to have a massive unemployment problem—as we have now.

  I carried out a business survey in my electorate because I was concerned about these people. I had many returns and with those returns I received a number of letters. I have a letter here that I would like to read to the House because I think it epitomises what small business people in our community and the general public are thinking with regard to what is wrong with Australia today. The letter says:

Dear Mr. Hicks,

Thank you for your interest in the local business community with your Small Business Survey . . . I thought I'd drop you a line with some points that I think are relevant.

I come from a long line of farming people and most of my life has been spent in this area. I have seen the fruits of my Grandfathers years of hard work with a pick and shovel battling against the elements. The thing I thought would surely lead to success in my life time in Australia was hard work. I am afraid that the way Australia is now, my idea and my ideals are wrong.

There is no incentive to take the risk and put up your house and all you own to go into business now. The interest rates that have been charged in the last few years have stripped any return for hard work put in by myself and my wife into this business. The amount of extra expense and paperwork to employ people has just gotten out of hand. My wife and I and our son exist on $200 drawings per week and the lowest paid employee in our business is taking home more than us and working only 38 hours per week, being paid for public holidays, receiving 4 weeks annual leave with full pay and on top of that he gets paid an extra 17.5% for NOT working. Not to mention the superannuation being paid by us for his retirement and the workers comp in case he is injured. The question I guess I am asking is .. Who is looking after us? Where is the incentive for me? Why do this?

I can't compete with the welfare system in this country. I have been advertising for a tradesman to run our workshop to reduce my workload. We also placed the vacancy with the C.E.S. They sent around some people who fitted the job description. One bloke came from near Newcastle, the C.E.S paid for the petrol for him to travel here and paid a nights accommodation for him and his wife. A brief history on him was that he was in business with another 2 partners and one partner bought out the other 2. He took the money from this and went around Australia on an extended holiday with his wife and 5 kids for 12 months. He returned home and was out of work for 12 months. We made him an offer of employment at the award rate of pay plus over award payment to reach the award plus $100 in the hand per week. A total of $430 per week to take home. The actual cost to us for wages alone was in excess of $650 per week plus super, holiday pay, plus the 17.5% plus, plus, plus. He thanked us for the offer and said he was being paid by the Government a total of $420 a week in the hand plus free medical for him and his family and a low interest subsidy home loan because he was unemployed. I can't compete with the welfare system. In effect he would be getting paid a total of $10 for 38 hours work compared to $420 a week for not working. Tell me where is the incentive for me? Is this fair? We haven't heard from him since, I don't blame him. Unfortunately if I had the choice between working for $430 a week and not working for $420, regrettably I'd be tempted not to work. Wouldn't you? Imagine the message this is sending to his kids (the eldest is around 14 or so). On top of his payments the bugger was working with his brother in law on the sly and getting $100 a day as a labourer. I give up!!

We have lost a lot since my Grandfather gave up the pick and shovel and the saddest thing is that we didn't even notice it went. When he retired there was no story in the Sydney Morning Herald "Lou Henley Retires after 60 Years Farming", the front page was full that day with "Employees Strike for More Pay" or "Workers Granted 17.5% Loading". We have lost the most valuable commodity we had, THE WORK ETHIC. The Japanese now own it.

Look at this country Noel, look at the mothers of new born babies leaving them in service station toilets, on the bonnet of a taxi outside a city hospital, look at the people being thrown off their farms, look at the bankruptcies, look at the despair in the business people as they face the Bank Manager, look at the record unemployment and then take a look at that bastard sitting on his butt taking $420 per week for not working. What have we done? We're buggering this country up.

Where are we headed. I thought hard work would conquer all. We have taken the incentive out of it. We have taken the zest for life out of the young farmer thrown off his farm because he couldn't keep up the interest payments. We have taken the will out of the business person to employ people because the employee makes more out of the business than the owner does and works less for it. We've given over to a feeling that to succeed and be financially secure is to be frowned upon—the tall poppy syndrome reigns supreme. We have given over to where we choose not to work and we are paid well not to.

Hope springs eternal. Perhaps the Member for Riverina-Darling will stand up in Parliament and read this out and the other Pollies will realise that we have the equation wrong. Instead of giving the money to people just to survive why don't we give it to that young farmer to get back onto the land so he will employ that bloke on $420 a week sitting at home. Why don't we give it to the business person facing the Bank Manager to ease his load, so instead of spending all his time struggling to stay afloat he could spend it running his business and employing people.

I've passed to you my Grandfather's pick and shovel, I'm too tired to go on. It is your turn to dig. . . .

That is a very sad letter but it is typical of many of the letters that I have been getting since I put forward this business survey.

  That leads me on to the alarming figures that appeared in the media yesterday showing that there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of families with one or both of the parents unemployed—an increase of 53,600 overall on the June 1991 figure. I congratulate the honourable member for Forde (Ms Crawford) on the concern she expressed for mothers and for women in our community, who do after all carry a great burden, particularly in rural areas where their men have to go out and work through drought and through all sorts of problems they face in the bush. They have to cheer up their menfolk as they come home dejected because the price of their stock is low and they cannot get any return. Besides that, they stand side by side with their men in trying to work the property, and that is taking a great toll on their health. It is certainly agreed that we must do all we can to assist women who are in these difficult situations—not only women in the bush but women right throughout Australia. I think the best thing we can do for women in this country is to do something about our infrastructure. We have to do something to get these many people back to work, particularly family people and breadwinners. If this Government cannot do it, I think it has to stand aside.

  In the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) we have a Prime Minister who has no respect at all for this Parliament. When school children from my electorate come here I say to them, `Although democracy is in the wider world, the symbol of democracy is this building and the people who represent the electorate, whether they be in the House of Representatives or in the Senate'. For a person to call the Senate unrepresentative swill is an insult to this Parliament and it shows a lack of respect for the Parliament. One wonders how a Prime Minister can say that about the very institution which he is supposed to lead.

  I hope that the House takes note of what this gentleman has written to me and that honourable members here try to do something to cure those ills. The present Government is probably tired—it has been in government for some time now. It has no answers and it just keeps on the same old trail. If it is tired, let it stand aside and let a new government come in that will do something for these people that will at least make changes.

  The United States voters have shown that they wanted a change because they believed they were getting nowhere. I believe it is now up to us to go forward and to do something for these people who want to do something for the nation. We must give them some incentive to work, give them some incentive to save, give them some incentive to invest. We must do something for these people, wherever they may be in Australia, who in turn want to do something for this nation.