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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10103

Mrs WICKS (Robertson) (13:04): I am delighted to support this motion today because it is in support of small business, and to be able to outline just some of the measures that this fantastic government is undertaking to make life easier for small businesses across Australia, particularly in my electorate and on the Central Coast. I commend the member for Hindmarsh for moving this motion, because small business is one of the largest drivers of economic growth in our nation and one of the best local economic drivers of growth on the Central Coast, and small business has this government's support.

There are more than two million small and micro businesses in Australia, which account for 95 per cent of the total number of businesses across the country. More than 12,000 of these are in the Gosford local government area and they make a significant contribution to the Central Coast. Nearly half of Australia's private, non-financial workforce are employed by small business, and they contribute 35 per cent of Australia's production. Unfortunately, those on the other side of the chamber, when they were in government, sought to impose barriers to the success of small business. Under Labor, 519,000 jobs were lost in small business, and the procurement market was a closed shop with such significant restrictions and barriers that small business could not compete with the time, complexity and insurance obligations.

Rod Dever from ORS employment solutions, a recruitment agency based in my electorate in Gosford, told me that the key is the amount of time it takes to administer a small business. This includes reporting, paperwork to the tax office and payments that can add on so much extra time. This is on top of the daily running of a business, which requires a high level of dedication, often for long hours, and nearly always seven days a week. Rod said to me that it is the burden of registrations, regulation and accreditation that all cost time and money. There are also fees from all levels of government which, he claimed, can eat into the dollars made on a daily basis. These are just some of the challenges faced by small business to meet basic requirements, to secure government contracts. But this government, through Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson, is taking the brakes off small businesses and once again working to help them thrive.

We have allocated $2.8 million over four years to assist small business to access the Commonwealth procurement market. This was a commitment that we made prior to the election and that we are delivering on. This package will see a special unit set up within the Department of Finance to work with small business in order to develop the resources that employers need. The government have also committed to repealing burdensome, unnecessary and stifling regulation with our regulation repeal days. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Josh Frydenberg, has taken charge of this agenda and our efforts have removed the regulatory imposts that apply to more than 20,000 annual tender processes for Commonwealth agency work, which imposed additional costs on companies, particularly small business, compared to contracts in the private sector.

In conjunction with our first repeal day, the government have also undertaken a range of reforms to grants and procurement processes which include standard contract terms being applied across agencies for procurements under $200,000; a standard agreement template for low-risk grants across agencies; and the use of credit and debit cards for payments under $20,000—previously $10,000—which should assist small businesses with cash flow. These changes have been estimated to lead to an annual saving of $62.23 million in compliance costs.

I also know from my experience and from talking to many small businesses on the Central Coast that, when given the chance and a level playing field, small business can deliver a much better product than some of the larger players. By their very nature, they are innovators. As more small businesses enter the procurement market, I know they will inspire innovative solutions to many of our challenges. Daniel Farmer, the Regional Manager of the Central Coast NSW Business Chamber, has said to me that they want to have an open discussion about issues that impact them. He said small businesses have been cautious but very encouraged by this government's changes that boost local jobs and boost local growth.

We have a tremendous, innovative small business community on the Central Coast, but they are time and resource poor and they face significant obstacles in securing government contracts. I encourage as many businesses as possible in my electorate of Robertson to come forward and compete for these contracts, no matter how small they may be. By working together with small business, the government wants to provide the right environment for small business to thrive, generate local jobs and build a stronger economy.