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Tuesday, 14 October 2003
Page: 21312

Mr FARMER (3:40 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Small Business and Tourism. Would the minister please inform the House of how important small businesses are to Australia's economic performance and what impediments exist to future growth in areas like mine in Macarthur and indeed throughout all of Australia?

The SPEAKER —The member for Rankin and the member for Port Adelaide, the minister has the call.

The SPEAKER —The member for Rankin is now defying the chair and I will deal with him. The minister has the call.

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Small Business and Tourism) —I thank the very hardworking member for Macarthur—a great fighter for Western Sydney—for his question. The member for Macarthur, who was a small business man himself before entering this parliament, knows how important it is to try and reduce tax for small businesses to give them a fair go, because they now represent more than one-third of the Australian economy and theirs is one of the fastest areas of growth in employment in Australia. Small business is crippled by state taxes and charges. In New South Wales, particularly in Western Sydney, the Carr government are now collecting record levels of stamp duty, at $3.55 billion this year; they are collecting record levels of payroll tax—in fact this year they are expecting payroll tax revenue in New South Wales to increase by around six per cent, or $280 million—and of course the Carr government are collecting record levels of land tax. They are expecting an extra $217 million.

So when I woke up this morning and saw the new headline `$133 million tax grab' in the Daily Telegraph, I said to myself, `Oh no, not again—Labor is at it; Labor is jacking up land tax for small business and jacking up land tax for people in Western Sydney.' The truth is this: every time land tax is increased it affects small business. Every small business that operates in a shop or that has a workplace ends up paying the land tax, whether it owns the building or it rents the building, because if it rents the building the landlord passes the land tax straight through to the small business. So when it comes to land tax in regional communities you can see that rising rents have a real impact on holiday accommodation and that rising rents have a real impact on the coffee shops and the souvenir stores right up and down the coast. The member representing Port Macquarie in this place, who is a minister, knows all too well what the impact of land tax is on small businesses in his electorate and all up and down the coast of New South Wales.

You would have thought that the member for Werriwa would have said something about this. You would have thought that the member for Werriwa would have complained about higher levels of state taxation and the impact they are having on small business. The only comment from the member for Werriwa on the record is that he says it is `a legitimate goal of government to lift land prices'. He says it is legitimate for governments—state governments—to increase land prices, particularly for people in Western Sydney. Well, we oppose any increase in land prices that is going to be driven by taxation. We oppose any attempt to increase land tax, especially by state Labor governments. It is not just about the fighters for Western Sydney, like the member for Macarthur, but about the members of the Liberal and National parties, who are going to fight against increased taxes imposed by the Labor Party on small business.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.