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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 1794

Small Business

Mrs McNAMARA (Dobell) (14:25): My question is to the Minister for Small Business. I refer the minister to an article published on 7 August in The Daily Telegraph which says that, with the impact of the cost of electricity doubling and freight costs spiralling and other costs of business increasing, it is not surprising more businesses have shut their doors in Dobell than anywhere else in the state. Will the minister inform the House of what the government is doing to support the almost 9,000 small businesses operating in Dobell?

Mr BILLSON (DunkleyMinister for Small Business) (14:26): I thank the member for Dobell for her first question, after a magnificent first speech. One of the things that the electorate on the Central Coast knew was that a vote for Karen McNamara and the coalition was a vote to put the business back into small business. I have seen the article to which the member refers. It captures the challenge faced by outer metropolitan areas and areas such as the Central Coast where small business is the economy. This is where small businesses provide the livelihoods, the vitality in the community, the chance for young people to get a start. This article captured how under the last years of the Labor government the small business economy had frozen and opportunities were being lost. Local traders were reflecting on electricity costs doubling, freight costs spiralling and other costs of doing business increasing, and were saying to themselves that they were surprised more businesses had not shut under Labor.

At the election there was a choice—a choice for the people of Dobell to have more of the same, where 412,000 jobs had been lost in small business under Labor; where at the end of Labor there were 3,000 fewer small businesses employing people than was the case when Labor was first elected. The people could choose whether they wanted to stop the decline in the employment provided by the small business sector. Fifty-three per cent of all employment in the private sector workforce when Labor were elected was provided by small business. By the time they left, it had gone down to 43 per cent. So there was a choice, and I am pleased to say that in vast numbers the people of the Central Coast said it was time for a change, time to put the business back into small business. There was a comprehensive small business plan, some of which Labor had voted against twice. Do you remember ending the pay clerk role with the paid parental leave? Labor had voted against that twice. They argued it would have been a devastating blow. But in a thought bubble, trying to come up with some small business policy, they tried to pinch the coalition's policy. They came in here yesterday arguing that we should go and change the very policy that they defended for six years.

This article connects with the real life of small business. The carbon tax has been absolutely punishing for small business. Not only did Labor want to keep the tax but they wanted to see it go up and up. Labor's strategy proposes to extend it to freight costs—one of the concerns raised in this article. We are coming up to Christmas. The opposition leader has some choices. Does he want to deliver a $550 Christmas benefit each year for Australian households and help restore consumer confidence? He can do that by axing the carbon tax. Does he want to help the small business community of Dobell? He can axe the carbon tax. The message from small businesses across Australia is: Bill Shorten, axe the carbon tax.