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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 3606

Senator BOSWELL (10:36 AM) —I thank the Government Whip for that explanation. But I support the recommittal of these amendments because they will truly reflect the wishes of the Senate, and the wishes of the Senate, if this vote is carried, will reflect the wishes of millions and millions of small business people—and not only small business people but pharmacists, newsagents, solicitors—who would all have to be paymasters for a government plan.

We are putting forward the proposition that the government, through its Family Assistance Office, directly pay the women who are having the children. The government’s proposition is that for the first six months they will do exactly that, but after six months they will pay the employers and the employers will then pay the women who are on paid parental leave. If that is not a conflict of words and an absolute extension of unnecessary costs that will be passed on to Australia’s already hard pressed business sector, I do not know what is. I do not know the reason why it is being done.

I say to the Leader of the Government in the Senate: a lot of people are listening to this debate at the moment. A lot of people know that, if they are saddled with the administration of this Paid Parental Leave scheme, it will cost them a heap of money. I have something from the Pharmacy Guild wrote to me and I would like to read it into the Hansard:

A local ACT member made enquiries as to the cost of completing upgrades to his payroll software to accommodate the required changes. He has advised that in his particular case he will be able to complete the software upgrade ... in-house, which will not be the case for the majority of community pharmacy employers. Without this in-house expertise, he estimated a cost of $600 - $700 to complete this upgrade. In terms of the ongoing administration as a paymaster, his experienced ... payroll processing staff estimates approximately one hour per employee, per pay plus additional set up and close off time per employee. In the event that he was to have 6 employees on PPL at once, to perform the role of paymaster for the Government, he estimates the time cost to his business for the payroll processing would be half a day each ... fortnight.

I know it does not apply to this government but, in Queensland, the state government has put in a new payroll system, and issues have been going on for six months. People have not been paid, the payments have been different and overtime has not been put in. It has just been a complete farce.

I do not know why we have to go through this process of passing on an oncost that has to be administered by the Family Assistance Office. They have to pay an employer and the employer then pays the employee. Let us cut out the middleman and go direct and save Australia’s small businesses—and big businesses, for that matter—millions and millions of dollars in costs that are completely unnecessary. We are putting up this amendment. If the amendment goes up and the government does not accept it, it will be on their head. They will have inflicted costs of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars, on the Australian small business sector—and on the big business sector, for that matter. The big businesses might be able to cope because they have officers committed to these sorts of payroll issues, but small business does not.

Madam Temporary Chairman Boyce, being a majority shareholder in a business, you would know from your experience that the costs just keep moving up. There is land tax and other costs which just keep escalating for small business. There are electricity charges. Every day a new charge is inflicted on Australia’s small businesses. It has got to the stage that small businesses are coming to me. I had one person yesterday saying: ‘It’s not worth it anymore to employ 60 or 70 people. Every day I get an increase in my costs that I have to absorb.’ We are killing the goose that laid the golden egg, and not only by inflicting a mining tax upon Australia’s most productive sector. With this scheme, we are going to inflict a huge cost on a sector that provides the majority of Australia’s employment.

There is absolutely no need for it. So bear in mind, Minister, that, when you take this to your cabinet, what you are doing is neglecting Australia’s business sector for no reason at all. You already have an office set up that can make the payments. Just direct the cheque to the women who are having the babies and you will get a pretty general acceptance of this bill. It will not be altogether. There will be people out there, the non-working mums, who will say that they are being underrepresented and underconsidered, and that they are not being taken for the value they give in bringing up their own children. Yes, there will be those people, and I have a great deal of sympathy for them.

But that is not the amendment at the moment. What we are debating at the moment is inflicting costs on Australian businesses. I know, Minister, that you are a fair-minded man; I know that you will take this and make representations to accept this amendment. It will not cost the government one cent more, but it will cost business millions and millions of dollars. If you do not accept this amendment I will be out there, leading the charge, saying: ‘We did our best. Senator Xenophon, Senator Fielding and the National and Liberal parties have done their best for business.’ You will have pulled the rug right out from under them if you do not accept this amendment.