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Tuesday, 28 May 2002
Page: 2464

Mr HAWKER (3:09 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Small Business and Tourism. Can the minister inform the House of any new information that indicates the level of business confidence amongst Australia's 1.2 million small businesses? Furthermore, are there any threats to this growing confidence?

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Small Business and Tourism) —I would like to thank the member for Wannon for his question. I had the opportunity to meet a number of small business owners in his electorate recently and they are all pretty happy with the direction of the economy. They are very happy with the fact that growth is up. They are very happy with the fact that employment is up. They are very happy with the fact that business confidence is high. That has been reinforced today by the release of the Yellow Pages small to medium enterprise index, which reported that in the last quarter there has been a surge in business confidence, with the current levels the highest since the May 1996 index. Moreover, small businesses are confident that the Australian economy will continue to grow and their employment expectations are for future growth, with 10 per cent of small businesses expected to increase the size of their work force in the next quarter.

Of course, there have been a number of factors that have contributed to this: the strong Australian economy, the responsible attitude of the government towards budgeting for the future, the commitment of the government to continue with workplace relations changes and a range of other initiatives. Perhaps there is one other factor that is giving small business confidence: it is the fact that the Labor Party has dumped rollback. Perhaps that has some impact. After five years the Labor Party decided to dump rollback, and it was in a speech to the Fabian Society conference on Saturday, 4 May 2002 by the shadow Treasurer. He said:

After five years as the centrepiece of our tax policy and after two election defeats, it is time to reassess our priorities.

I went looking for this speech and it was very hard to obtain. I went to the Labor Party web site and there are over 770 listings of speeches and statements from 14 February this year but there is one that is missing: the rollback of rollback speech—the full speech, no comment, no question. You have to ask why. Are they a little embarrassed about it? Could it be that Frankenstein's monster took a lot to kill, or could it be the fact that they made Dr Frankenstein the Leader of the Opposition?

The SPEAKER —The minister does nothing to elevate the debate with that sort of reference.

Mr HOCKEY —The architect of the rollback policy is now the Leader of the Opposition, and it took the shadow Treasurer on a Saturday in an unpublished speech to go out and to kill rollback. That says a lot about the policy development of the Labor Party. It says a lot about the fact that for five years they ran hard on rollback and then on one Saturday in an unpublished speech it was not even the architect of rollback that killed it; it was the shadow Treasurer. Small business has confidence in the way the Howard government is taking it and they have absolutely no confidence in the Leader of the Opposition.