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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 6006

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongAssistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation) (19:49): I thank the member for Dobell for doing the job of the opposition and asking a question. The inflation forecast for 2012-13 is three per cent, and the unemployment forecast for 2012-13 is 4½ per cent. Of course, that is in the budget papers. I watched the member for Casey's questioning style and he is not above asking the odd number question. I saw him ask a question on the terms of trade. So I appreciate that for all the sound and fury of the desperate need of the opposition to ask questions, the member for Casey's form is to ask basic economic data questions which, to be honest, a year 10 student could find out on Google. Anyhow, if that is how he wants to use his time—the point is that these questions should be for insight, not data and fact collection. If you want data and fact collection, open the budget.

I am sufficiently alarmed by the member for Casey's lack of knowledge of the basic economic data that I think he may not be aware of what we are doing for small business. The member for Dobell is a relentless advocate for small business in his electorate. Indeed, he is getting me to come and meet people in his electorate, and hear what the issues are on the Central Coast. I am optimistic for the Central Coast in the long term. I think the coastal regions of Australia will grow and will boom. And they are fortunate to have, by and large, Labor members of parliament, because they will fight hardest for their regions.

On 1 July 2012, as a result of the budget, 2.7 million small businesses will be able to instantly write off the first $5,000 of a vehicle or truck purchase. That is good news. That is costing $350 million. That is a direct, tangible help. Often we leave this place and go into the real world and talk to people about what we are doing. What we on the government side are able to say is that because of us, because of the budget, there is another $5,000 you can write off your vehicle. That is real. Leave aside all the opposition's scare mongering—I know that plenty of individual members on the opposition appreciate the real accomplishments of this budget; that is why they have infested the openings of the Building the Education Revolution school halls like serial pests, even though they voted against it. It is almost like they have two sets of clothes. They have their Canberra clothes, which are opposition, opposition, opposition; they get out into the electorate and they want to associate with the real things that this government is accomplishing.

But it does not stop there. What it means is that when the tradesperson, such as those that the member for Dobell represents, takes the $5,000 write-off they will be able claim $1,275 back. That is what they will get back. That is real money. As much as the opposition want to decry this budget, that is something real and tangible. Furthermore, combine that with our write-off of $5,000 for assets. Then there is the small business company tax. That is an important part of the strategy of the government for helping small business. We are proposing, when we pass our minerals resources rent tax, to use some of the revenue from that to decrease the company tax of small business from 30 per cent to 29 per cent. That makes a real and material difference to the operation of small businesses. Furthermore, on budget night we announced $700 million of tax instalment relief for small businesses. We think this is a good gain. We think that is a benefit for small business and we understand that that instalment relief will assist businesses experiencing difficulty in cash flow.

The other good news is that with the fringe benefit tax reforms to motor vehicles, some people who had been previously driving their vehicle just beyond a certain point to claim the better deduction rate for the fringe benefit tax benefit on motor vehicles will no longer have to engage in that behaviour to get the benefit. There is a range of benefits for small business.

Another proposition I feel obliged to draw to the attention of the committee is that in the last budget—the one before this—we announced a clearing house for superannuation. In what can only be described as a misfire or a clanger or a mistake or an oopsy moment by the opposition, the Leader of the Opposition, in a demonstration to try to prove he is not just Dr No and Professor Negative, said the coalition will announce a clearing house for small business: they can remit their money. The Leader of the Opposition said, 'You can pay your money, small business, to the tax office and they will remit to all the superannuation funds of the employees.' Sounds like a good idea except for one thing. We have already done it. It is already happening. We are using the Medicare office—4,500 employees have used it; $45 million has been dispersed; 86,000 payments have been made; 29,000 employees. It is a good idea but it is a bit like the opposition claiming credit for inventing the wheel. Just bad luck that someone else has already got there.