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Tuesday, 10 August 2004
Page: 25991

Senator SANTORO (2:14 PM) —My question is to the Special Minister of State, Senator Abetz, representing the Minister for Small Business and Tourism. Will the minister outline to the Senate how the Howard government is helping small business, which is the engine room of jobs growth in Australia? Furthermore, is the minister aware of any alternative policies, and what consequences would these have for Australian small businesses and their employees?

Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) —I thank Senator Santoro for his question and acknowledge his longstanding interest in small business. Senator Santoro has introduced me to literally hundreds of small business operators in Queensland and has championed their cause. Because of his intricate knowledge of small business he rightly describes it as the engine room of our economy. As Senator Santoro would know, there are elements within this parliament that would seek to turn off that engine, and they of course are those who sit opposite, together with their trade union masters. Labor, if elected, will institute the most job destroying, business bankrupting system of industrial relations that this country has ever seen. Mr Latham, if elected, is set to eclipse the dubious achievements of his mentor Mr Whitlam and devastate the economy in one term, not in two, as it took Mr Whitlam.

Six of Labor's job destroying policies and disincentives for employment have been announced in their recent industrial relations policy. Firstly, there is a new federal payroll tax for every business with 20 or more employees. Just imagine what an expanding small business would do. You have got 18 or 19 employees, you want to take on a new employee, but if you step onto that threshold you start paying tax and there is extra paperwork. What would you do? You would not employ another worker. Just imagine if you did have 20 or 21 workers and Labor were to come into office. You would seek to get rid of one or two workers to avoid the cost of that Labor tax and to avoid the paperwork. Labor are willing to sacrifice jobs on the altar of higher taxation. Labor want to kill the economic goose that lays the jobs growth eggs for the Australian people.

Secondly, secondary boycotts would be allowed again. Having worked on the Dollar Sweets case in a personal capacity, I know the devastation that secondary boycotts have on small business. Labor would seek to legalise secondary boycotts. Thirdly, Labor want to return to an inflexible centralised wage fixing system which fails to take into account the many factors which are needed for small business to operate. Fourthly, they want to reduce casual employment, forgetting that casual employment often grows into full-time employment for those small businesses that are growing. Fifthly, Labor would force independent contractors into being part of the industrial relations system.

Most importantly and finally, what every small business hates more than anything else is a return to the bad old days of Labor's unfair unfair dismissal laws. If Labor were willing to abolish those right here and now there would be jobs growth in this country of 50,000 jobs. No wonder the Financial Review has condemned the Australian Labor Party's policy in this area as airbrushing out the jobless from their industrial relations policy. Small business has condemned them. The reason that Labor have adopted this policy is that the Labor senators opposite represent the trade union movement. Each and every one of them is beholden to the trade union movement. When only 17 per cent of Australian workers are actually in a union we have 100 per cent of those opposite engaged— (Time expired)