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Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Page: 4454

Mr CIOBO (10:21 AM) —The member for Oxley remarked about people listening to this debate. Mr Deputy Speaker, if they were, I think they changed frequencies a long time ago. That would have to be one of the driest contributions I have heard about a bill that is so important not only for a number of aspects of the Australian economy but in particular for small business, which is my focus. There are many aspects and schedules to the Tax Laws Amendment (2009 Measures No. 2) Bill 2009 and I intend to confine my comments to those aspects that deal with small business and in particular the fact that this bill will make a number of concessions to ensure that there is some assistance provided to small business.

If you were to listen to those opposite you would believe that in some way this bill is the salvation of small business in Australia. In large part that is because this government is so completely derelict when it comes to support of Australia’s 2.4 million small businesses that employ about 3.8 million Australians. For the vast majority of those opposite the closest contact they have with small business in this country is when they walk into one to buy a coffee. That is the most connection that the vast majority of government members have to small businesses in this country. That is the reason why I am pleased to talk about some of the things that the coalition did when we were in government and to outline some of our proposals about what we would do today if we were in government. In large part it stands as a contribution in response to the member for Oxley, who suggested that in some way nothing had been done for 12 years. He could not be more wrong.

The fact is that the coalition does understand small business. Small business is the constituency of the coalition. The coalition understands small business—unlike those trade union hacks that sit on the government benches. There are a whole lot of them in the chamber now—and they are putting their hands up because they know. They went from university straight into the trade unions and from the trade unions straight into this chamber. Their knowledge of small business is nil. You say to one of them, ‘What can you tell me about PAYG instalments?’ and they look blankly back at you. They have got no idea what that means for small business. So no wonder that the member for Oxley stands up in this chamber, chest puffed out, claiming that in some way this bill is going to do so much for small business and highlights, as one of the great accomplishments of the Rudd Labor government, assistance to small business in this country. No wonder that is the case because, really, the cupboard is bare when it comes to small business policy.

We have seen, effectively, two announcements by the Rudd Labor government for the small business sector, the backbone of the Australian economy. There are 3.8 million Australians employed in the small business sector and there have been, effectively, two announcements. The first was the announcement with respect to PAYG instalment payments, which saw them reduced. The reason the Rudd Labor government did that was they copied the coalition’s policy. I put out a press release on this about a month or two prior to the announcement by the Prime Minister and the small business minister. The coalition was out there leading the way on PAYG changes to help small business at this time and, lo and behold, the government said, ‘Gee, that’s not a bad idea.’ You could have seen Kevin Rudd and Dr Emerson, the member for Rankin, sitting down and saying, ‘What are we going to do on small business? I have got no idea. We do not know what to do. What does the coalition propose? Well, Steve Ciobo on behalf of the coalition has put out a press release—let’s copy that.’ So that is what the Labor Party did with their first announcement.

The second announcement was put out by the Labor Party about their tax-effective investment allowance, and we have seen the Labor Party crowing about this proposal outlined in the budget. This was going to do so much to help Australian small businesses. That measure, like the one that is before the House today, will assist some small businesses—and there is no doubt about it; I am not going to pretend it does not. But the reality is that for the 93 per cent of Australian small businesses that are under cash flow stress, that announcement does nothing. And the reason that the announcement does nothing—and this is what Labor fails to understand—is you have got to have a dollar to spend a dollar. There is no point providing a tax-effective investment allowance increase to 50 per cent to encourage small businesses to spend if they do not have a dollar to spend or if they do not have access to credit. Labor just does not get it.

Mr Laurie Ferguson interjecting

Mr CIOBO —So I am very pleased to talk about our track record. I am pleased to talk about our six-point small business action plan which would ease cash flow, make it cheaper to employ people and keep people employed in Australia’s small businesses. Particularly, though, because I gave a commitment to the minister and the parliamentary secretary at the table that I would only go for about five or six minutes, I will confine my comments now to honour my commitment. So I will specifically talk about the TLAB No. 2 bill and in particular I will make a couple of comments with respect to schedule 2.

Mr Laurie Ferguson interjecting

Mr CIOBO —Schedule 2 of the bill expands the scope of the concessions for those assets which are used under a passive assets structure. The amendments allow a small business only a capital gains tax asset that is used in a business by an affiliate, or an entity associated with the small business, to access the small business capital gains tax concessions. The amendments also allow partners who own a capital gains tax asset that is used in a partnership business to access the small business capital gains tax concessions through the $2 million aggregated turnover test where the capital gains tax asset is not an asset of the partnership. The coalition welcomes these amendments. Indeed, we have advocated for the small business capital gains tax concessions to be expanded further, and that was first outlined by the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Nelson, in his budget-in-reply a little over a year ago, and this would occur of course under an elected Turnbull government. It will further expand the small business capital gains tax concessions by reducing the active asset test from 15 years down to five years, giving small businesses access to the concessions.

So I put that on the table as something else that the government should copy from the coalition. If you copy it from the coalition you will receive praise from the small business sector because it is something that the small business sector would like to see instituted. The commitment was made by the Leader of the Opposition in the 2008 budget-in-reply and the government is still to respond to our proposal. Only a Turnbull coalition government would provide further relief for retiring small business owners through the small business capital gains tax concessions.

Finally, I have heard the interjections from the Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, who is sitting opposite, that I go on longer. I will just indulge the House and myself for one brief moment to reflect on the comments made by the member for Oxley when he spoke about having spent 10 years in opposition focusing on the things that he was lamenting, the things that cannot be undone, and saying that they were his inspiration for policy.

If there is one issue that the member for Oxley should be lamenting, if there is one example of a thing that cannot be undone, I would say to the government that it is their $300 billion of debt. That is something that you should lament—$300 billion of debt that the small business men and women of Australia will have to pay for through higher interest rates and higher taxes. That is what cannot be undone. That is what the government should be lamenting, because of their $124 billion splurge of new spending. Ten million dollars an hour since the Rudd Labor government were elected is what the government should be lamenting. It will be, unfortunately, on the shoulders of Australia’s 2.4 million small business men and women to be paid off. The Rudd Labor government have accrued $9,000 of debt for every single man, woman and child in the 18 months since they were elected. That is the great travesty of this reckless government, who have lost control of the public finances and are crippling confidence in Australia’s small business sector.

Small business men and women say to me that the best thing that this country could ever see would be for this reckless spending government to be voted out of office and for the coalition to be re-elected. It took us nearly 12 years to repay Labor’s $96 billion worth of debt. It is going to take us who knows how many decades to repay Labor’s $300 billion worth of debt, which they have managed to rack up in a relatively short 18 months. Having said all of that, I will honour my commitment to the parliamentary secretary at the table and confine my remarks to that.