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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10101

Mrs McNAMARA (Dobell) (12:54): In electorates such as Dobell, small-business operators are the engine room of our economy and deserve support and recognition from government. I am proud to represent the 8,939 businesses based in my electorate. The member for Hindmarsh is correct in saying that small business is a major driver of economic growth in Australia. This government has a strong track record in supporting business. We understand that you cannot have a strong and healthy society without a strong economy to sustain it, and you do not have a strong economy without profitable businesses. While this is a fact that has been lost on members opposite, this government has been delivering real relief and assistance to small business operators Australia wide. Small business is the backbone of many regional economies. Unfortunately, many small-business operators find themselves time and resource poor. A major contributor to this has been the burden of compliance.

I have previously spoken in this place about real-life experiences of small-business operators in Dobell whose struggles with the cost of compliance impacted on their productivity and on their ability to grow, invest and create new jobs. The cost of compliance is a major barrier to growth. The average Australian business deals with eight regulators in a given year, spends close to four per cent of their total annual expenditure on complying with regulatory requirements, and spends approximately 19 hours a week on compliance-related activities.

This government is addressing the issue of excessive regulation, and earlier this year we held the Regulation Repeal Day, which removed $700 million worth of compliance costs from our economy. For small-business operators, Regulation Repeal Day removed specific regulatory requirements, many applicable to textile, clothing and footwear suppliers under Commonwealth government contracts. This government also removed regulatory imposts applicable to more than 20,000 annual tender processes for Commonwealth departmental and agency contracts. This resulted in the removal of tendering costs associated with Commonwealth government contracts otherwise not incurred by business when dealing with the private sector.

A major obstacle facing small-business operators in securing government contract is the 'take it or leave it' condition. Small businesses, like individual consumers, are often offered pre-prepared contracts on a 'take it or leave it' basis, and many lack the resources to effectively navigate or negotiate these contracts. As part of the budget, the government is committed to $1.4 million to support the extension to small businesses of unfair contract term protections, currently available to consumers. A further $2.8 million is allocated over the next four years to establish a unit within the Department of Finance dedicated to providing specialist advice on Commonwealth government contracts and conducting business with government. Such assistance will ensure that small-business operators are well informed to compete on a level playing field with big business and are not disadvantaged when dealing with Commonwealth government procurement. Such practical help will contribute to turning around the fortune of small-business operators and reverse the trend of small-business closures that we unfortunately experienced under the former Labor government.

As a result of the former Labor government's actions, we saw 519,000 jobs lost across the small-business sector. In my electorate of Dobell, small business is collectively the largest employer, employing approximately 40,000 people. As the member for Dobell, growing the Central Coast economy and providing jobs close to where people live is a key priority.

This government acknowledges the role small business can play in delivering services and vital infrastructure on behalf of the Commonwealth government. In Dobell, we have recently seen local companies, such as RelativeMilat, based at Tuggerah, successful in tendering in competition with larger, out-of-region firms as part of the NBN rollout. This sends the message to other local businesses in Dobell that they too can be a reliable supplier for Commonwealth services.

Furthermore, increased competition will deliver better value for the taxpayer's dollar, and the potential to see direct investment in regional economies driven by small businesses successfully tendering for Commonwealth government contracts. This government's actions recognise and support the role small businesses play within the Australian economy, and acknowledge their capacity to deliver outcomes for Commonwealth departments and agencies.

The measures outlined in this motion demonstrate that this government is proactively assisting small business to become more productive, to contribute to the Australian economy and to provide opportunity to grow, hence resulting in more local jobs in our communities. I commend the member for Hindmarsh on his motion.