Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 1 June 2005
Page: 27


Mr BURKE (10:59 AM) —by leave—I move:

(1)    Schedule 1, page 3 (after line 14), after item 4, insert:

4A  At the end of subsection 32C(1)

Add:

; or

              (c)    in the case of an employer with fewer than 20 employees at the time the employer would but for subsection 32NA(2A) provide an employee with a standard choice form under section 32N, a fund chosen by the employer.

(2)    Schedule 1, page 5 (after line 8), after item 9, insert:

9A  At the end of section 32FA

Add:

         (3)    An employer with fewer than 20 employees, at the time the employer would but for subsection 32NA(2A) provide an employee with a standard choice form under section 32N, may refuse to accept the fund chosen by the employee under section 32F.

(3)    Schedule 1, item 11, page 5 (before line 25), before subsection (3), insert:

      (2A)    An employer is not required under section 32N to give an employee a standard choice form if, at the time the employer would, but for this subsection, provide an employee with a standard choice form under section 32N, the employer has fewer than 20 employees.

Members of the government have just come into this chamber to vote specifically on the issue of jail terms for employers who try to be helpful in giving advice. The last amendment applied to employers generally. The next ones say that if this government is determined to allow serious penalties to apply to employers generally, at the very least allow a carve-out of small business. We have had extraordinary arguments run previously as to why you could not have a carve-out of small business. A spokesperson for the minister at the table, the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, said previously—and I have quoted it before—that the problem with carving out small business from the super choice legislation would be that you would ‘create a competitive disadvantage’ for small business in taking on extra employees. A competitive disadvantage! As though exempting them all from unfair dismissal and allowing employees to be hired and fired at will did not in some way create a much greater competitive disadvantage for small business in employing people. The real issue here is one of paperwork. The issue is not about a competitive advantage or disadvantage in getting staff on.

The minister has acknowledged that, at first, most employees will not be exercising choice. Most employees will not choose to. They have already introduced a scheme starting on 1 July. Will it apply to people on state awards? No. Will it apply to people on AWAs with a super clause in their AWA? No. Will it apply to people on collective agreements with a super clause in their collective agreements? No, it will not. There are already a whole series of categories for which exemptions have been given. Why on earth will the government not extend those exemptions to small business?

It is a reasonable call to say that there is a higher burden on small business with compliance with this legislation than there is on larger businesses, for the very simple reason that they do not have an administration department to deal with this. They do not have a personnel department to deal with it. Every extra piece of paperwork lands on the desk of the employer. Every moment they spend having to attend to that paperwork, having to learn new sets of regulations, takes them away from their business. We have had the extraordinary comment from the minister earlier saying that he knows that small business is not unhappy about this. Why? Because the super funds are telling him. Not that they are consulting directly with small business—


Mr Brough —Yes, they are! They are actually out there on the ground.


Mr BURKE —No, when I said ‘they’ I was actually referring to you.


Mr Brough —This one has too, so get your facts right.


Mr BURKE —The consultation that the minister refers to—the minister who now says, ‘Yes, I have too; I just didn’t happen to mention it in my speech a bit earlier’—was done by the superannuation funds. These are the superannuation funds with a huge vested interest in saying there is no compliance burden. He ignores the comments from COSBOA, ignores the comments from the small business organisations, ignores the comments from the small business writers and ignores the comments on the ground, where there are few things more offensive you could say to a small business operator than, ‘It’s just another two-page form.’

Every extra piece of compliance burden that lands on the desk of small business is a real problem. It is a real problem in taking them away from their business and it is just plain downright offensive coming from a government that promised to reduce red tape by 50 per cent. They could now reduce red tape by 50 per cent by taking red tape back to 1996 levels. It would actually be an easier promise for them to deliver on now than it was when they first made it, but a carve-out of small business is a completely reasonable call. I do not understand why the government are so obsessed with creating extra red tape or why in every idea they have they decide that they will not pay for the extra compliance burden, that it can land on the desk of small business. Just this once, let us give small business a break. Just this once, let us say: ‘Even if this government will never reduce red tape, let’s at least stop making it worse.’