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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6793


Mr RIPOLL (Oxley) (10:47): Actually, in answer to a question that the minister asked: we have asked lots and lots of questions on small business, and related to small business. We have just asked people who might be able to give us an answer! That is the only difference.

But there is no doubt that the budget is having an immediate impact on the Australian economy and hence small business in Australia. The latest Westpac index of consumer confidence, in fact, shows the results of surveys taken after the Abbott government's budget; it fell sharply by 6.8 per cent in May. Perhaps the minister would like to explain why that is the case, since they are supposed to be the doyens of all knowledge and assistance for small business. Perhaps he could also explain why almost 60 per cent of the respondents in the Westpac survey said that the budget would make it tougher on family finances in the next 12 months and hence make it tough on small business as well?

The ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence survey showed that following the Abbott government's budget, consumer confidence had fallen 14 per cent since April. That is the fastest rate since the financial crisis. Now, that is pretty telling. And weekend reports from property analysts show sharp falls are being felt in the economy, with house prices in Australia's capital cities falling for the first time in 12 months. The RP Data index suggests that there is a strong correlation between consumer confidence levels and housing market activity, again, as a result of the very bad and chaotic budget of the Abbott government. So consumer confidence is falling—that is confirmed. And it is not Labor saying that, that is independent analysis.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Small Business makes massive cuts in the budget—directly cuts funding for small business. He cuts funding for skills and training programs which, as the minister would know himself, are one of the big issues for small business. That comes up in every survey and every time you talk to small business. They want funding for skills and training programs. The minister cuts what small business needs the most. He also has cut billions from tax benefits directly for small business and then tries to blame somebody else. If his cuts then have an effect on jobs, he tries to find somebody else to blame. It could not possibly be all the cuts that this minister and the Abbott government have made. When is the government actually going to take some responsibility rather than just look pious?

There are approximately 2.1 million small businesses in Australia employing roughly five million Australians. There are figures we all know, but these are figures that very few understand—perhaps even this minister knows the data but just does not understand what it means. On Labor's watch, we were quite happy to acknowledge the data and the circumstances. I felt proud that we created the conditions for small business to grow—because in fact, that is exactly what happened—based on estimates of employment by business size and the changes in the number of people employed between 2007 and 2013. I think the minister is slightly aware of this. Maybe he should try to explain this, because I am using the same dataset he likes to use.

Perhaps he could try to explain why large business—they are business too—grew from around 2.6 million to 3.4 million under Labor's watch. Just an explanation: how is that possible? That is 757,000 additional people, 757,000 additional jobs, which is an annual percentage increase of 4.3 per cent. Once he tries to explain that, he might perhaps try to explain further how medium and small businesses grew from around 1.9 million up to 2.7 million. That is an increase of additional people, real people, new jobs, real jobs—822,000.

Then he could probably try to explain this—and this is the figure he likes the most; the one he likes to quote. But he does not quite tell people this: non-employing business saw an annual change over that period, a transfer, albeit small. It is only 1.8 per cent over a six-year period. That is quite small. But it is the figure that the minister likes to quote, the 519,000 jobs. But, funnily enough, it is only in the non-employing small business. Where did those so-called jobs—because if they are not employing anyone you are assuming it is just the person who is the business, non-employing as the data shows—go? They went to medium and small business. Isn't that what it should always be about? Isn't that what we all want? Don't we want non-employing business to employ someone? Don't we want them to get out of that category and move up to the next category and grow? Because that is what Labor did: grow jobs and business.