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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 1024

Small Business


Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:50): My question is to the Minister for Small Business and very recently promoted Manager of Government Business in the Senate, and as this is my first question to him in that new promoted role I would like to congratulate him on his promotion. I refer the minister to the comments of Mr Dominic Greco, head of the Convenience and Mixed Business Association who is reported in last weekend's Australian Financial Review as saying, 'Right now small business feels extremely neglected,' and noting the minister's interest in business. Given that the Rudd-Gillard government has had four ministers for small business in less than five years—and with the announcement yester­day of this minister's imminent resignation, which we are all terribly disappointed about, it brings the total to five in less than five years—when will the government gets its act together and provide a consistent and stable policy foundation for the 2.7 million small businesses in Australia?


Senator ARBIB (New South WalesAssistant Treasurer, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Sport and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:51): I thank Senator Joyce for the question. It is great to see finally the Liberal Party or the National Party here asking a question on small business, actually coming to the Senate chamber and asking a question about policy, and I am very happy to answer it. Yesterday I outlined some of the work that Labor is doing on small business. The stimulus package was all about small business and all those tradesmen and tradeswomen, those jobs on those construction sites, all the multiplier effects to those other small businesses—the takeaway shops, the petrol stations, the supermarkets—and guess what: Senator Joyce voted against it. He voted against the stimulus package. Is it a surprise that the National Party voted against small business? No, it is not. Is it a surprise that every Liberal Party senator came in and voted against small business? No, it is not. This is the modern coalition. The coalition that used to be so committed to small business has walked away from small business. Not only did they oppose the stimulus package but also they have opposed tax cuts for small business. Let us just get this straight. The Liberal Party and the National Party oppose tax cuts for small business that will come out of the MRRT, the minerals resource rent tax, on 1 July this year.

If Senator Joyce has any commitment to small business, he will come into this chamber, he will support the minerals resource rent tax and he will provide a tax cut for small business; otherwise, anything he says on small business has no credibility whatsoever. The Liberal Party and the National Party have walked away from their traditional constituency. They have no idea anymore what it takes to run a small business. They have no idea what it takes in terms of cash flow. The accelerated depreciation allowance will provide assets for small businesses up to a $6,500 write-off. Guess what—the Liberals are voting against it. The Nationals are voting against it. This is the modern Liberal Party. (Time expired)


Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:53): Mr President, for a man with such passion it is such a shame to see him go. For my supplementary question, I refer the minister to the fact that most small businesses would not benefit from the government's planned cut in the company tax rate, given that most of them are not companies. How much of the government's $10.6 billion that it expects to raise from the mining tax over the forward estimates will be spent to assist small businesses, and will this be limited to only incorporated small businesses?


Senator ARBIB (New South WalesAssistant Treasurer, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Sport and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:54): Thank you, Senator, for the question. I also thank you for the compliment. I really do appreciate that. I am passionate about small business, as is everyone on this side of the chamber because we understand its importance to the economy. There are 720,000 businesses—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator ARBIB: Please let me answer this because they want the answer. There are 720,000 businesses that are incorporated in this country and they will benefit from the tax cut. But, at the same time as that, every business will benefit from the depreciation allowance; every business will benefit from the assets that they undertake.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator ARBIB: Yes, they will. At the same time as that, businesses that undertake their payments through PAYG will benefit from a tripling of the tax threshold. They will get the tax cut as well. The Liberals have walked away from small business. (Time expired)




Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:55): So recently promoted, so passionate, yet leaving—it is such a shame. As a further supplementary question, I refer to the fact that over the past year more than 10,000 small businesses have collapsed, an increase of over nine per cent from the previous year. The carbon tax will place increased pressure on small businesses this year in an already tough economic environment. How much of the government's $9 billion in industry assistance allocated under its clean energy package will specifically go to small businesses?


Senator ARBIB (New South WalesAssistant Treasurer, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Sport and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:56): If the National Party and the Liberal Party want to do something for small business, then they should vote to give them a tax cut. It is amazing that the modern Liberal Party are opposing tax cuts for small business. Peter Costello would be absolutely ashamed of the modern Liberal Party and National Party. They have walked away from giving a tax cut to small business.

Senator Joyce: Mr President, a point of order on relevance: we have asked how much of the $9 billion in industry assistance allocated under its clean energy package will go to small businesses. That is very specific and can we get a specific answer?

The PRESIDENT: I draw the attention of the minister to the question. The minister now has 38 seconds remaining. The minister should address the question.




Senator ARBIB (New South WalesAssistant Treasurer, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Sport and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:56): Thank you, Mr President. Through the clean energy package, there will be a trebling in the tax-free threshold which will assist small business to pay PAYG. If Senator Joyce wants to do something for small business, what about tax cuts, how about the depreciation allowance or how about they actually support the manufacturing programs in the auto industry that we have put in place? How about you support that, because not only will workers directly benefit but all those automotive small businesses will also benefit? But guess what—Mr Abbott has already ruled it out. You have walked away from small business—the Liberal Party has, the National Party has. Do not even pretend. (Time expired)