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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31530

Mr TUCKEY (3:04 PM) —I address my question to the Minister for Small Business and Tourism. Would the minister inform the House how unfair dismissal laws cost jobs and stifle economic growth? Is the minister aware of any recent support for reform to the unfair dismissal laws or other alternative views?

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Small Business and Tourism) —May I take the opportunity to thank the member for O'Connor for being a champion for small business. He comes straight out of the trench and takes on the Labor Party, who are out to crush small businesses in Australia. The member for O'Connor has long been an advocate for good small-business activity. My attention has been drawn to a report from Australian Business Ltd—a survey of their members—which has been released today. It identifies the significant impact of the current unfair dismissal laws on small business. It says that the impact of unfair dismissal legislation was identified by 75 per cent of respondents as a major or moderate concern. I know that does not bother the member for Rankin, who is in the vanguard of the fight of the union movement to do everything it can to close down casual employment. The member for Jagajaga says it is better not to have a job than to be employed casually.

An honourable member—Really?

Mr HOCKEY —That is what the member for Jagajaga says: it is better not to have a job than to have a casual job. What an astounding comment to make for all those people working on farms in casual employment, and in restaurants, in cafes and in the hotel industry right across the economy. And the member for Jagajaga is saying that it is far better for them not to have a job than to have casual employment.

I keep asking myself: why does the Labor Party keep fighting against us on the reform of the unfair dismissal laws? I keep asking that question. I thought it must have something to do with the composition of the Labor Party frontbench. The Leader of the Opposition has never worked in business full time. We cannot find that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has ever worked in business. The shadow Treasurer, the member for Hotham, has never worked in business. The shadow minister for small business has never worked in business—unless you call Centenary House a business!

A government member—It's a business all right!

Mr HOCKEY —It is a business: it is a property portfolio; it is funds management! We long for the days of Barney Cooney. We wish that Barney Cooney, who was the sole champion of small business—

Mr Costello —He was a barrister.

Mr HOCKEY —That is right; he was a barrister. Former senator Barney Cooney was in fact the last Labor senator ever to work in small business. Eighty per cent of the Labor senators are former trade union officials. I heard some recent comments from former senator Chris Schacht—who was himself shot, really, wasn't he? He had some refreshing words to say. He identified that the Labor Party had changed its tune on its recruitment to the Senate. In passing, while saying that the Labor Party is making great strides in changing the make-up of its senators, he said, `We are replacing male trade union officials with female trade union officials.'

Mr Costello —That is balance.

Mr HOCKEY —That is balancing it up. We thank him for that, but we also thank the member for Chifley for his comments yesterday. I remind the House that the member for Chifley said yesterday that the government should be able to govern. On more than 40 occasions the Labor Party have opposed our attempts to free Australia's 1.2 million small businesses from the burden of the unfair dismissal laws. We ask the Labor Party to stop doing a Roger to small business. We want the Labor Party to do a Roger to their own policy on the unfair dismissals legislation, pass our legislation and give small business a chance to employ more people.

Dr Emerson —I ask the minister to table the Australian business survey that he was just waving around, which reveals that the greatest concern of small business is tax—your tax—and the second greatest is red tape.

The SPEAKER —The member for Rankin will resume his seat.

Mr HOCKEY —I am happy to table it.