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Thursday, 21 June 2001
Page: 28411


Mr LLOYD (1:00 PM) —I rise today to highlight further assistance that has been provided by the Howard government to small businesses throughout Australia. The government has provided $6 million for a pilot program aimed at improving small business skills. There will be a series of small business assistance offices funded throughout Australia through the area consultative committees. I am particularly pleased that this has happened because I believe that I have played a small role in the development of this program. Initially the government appointed GST signpost offices throughout Australia, and they were so successful in most areas of Australia in assisting small business through some of the transitional difficulties of implementing the GST that there was obviously a role for well-informed and skilled people in the community to be basically liaison officers with the small business community, enabling them to access the whole range of support programs that are there to assist small business.

It is important that small business knows how to access these assistance schemes because, in many cases, running a small business is a full-time job. I know that from personal experience. You really do not have time to be out there, particularly some of the smaller microbusinesses that do not have a large number of staff. If they are owner operated, or a husband and wife with one or two staff, they do not have the time to be out there researching the assistance programs and support programs that are available and are put in place by the Howard government to assist them. So having someone such as a small business assistance officer in regional areas is going to be of great benefit to small business people.

There has been a lot of talk of course about the implementation of the GST. The Labor Party has run quite a large scare campaign and has tried to make out that it has been a great burden on small business. The whole idea of the new tax system was to take some of the burden off small business, and large business as well, to get rid of the wholesale sales tax nightmare, to get rid of sales tax on exports and to free up exporters to make them more competitive. It has been a great boost to small business.

I would like to read part of a letter which I received recently from a small business operator on the Central Coast. It was a totally unsolicited letter that he wanted to write to me. The letter says:

Dear Jim,

Since the introduction of the GST all I seem to hear from the media—

and I will add the opposition as well—

and the general public is nothing but negativity.

I am the part owner of two businesses on the central coast—

and he goes on to explain where they are—

The combined annual turnover of these two businesses is around 1.7 m. Our two businesses employ 13 people (9 permanent and 4 casual).

Since the introduction of the GST approximately 95% of our stock is now cheaper because it was previously subject to the 20% sales tax. Our customers are surprised when we inform them that the GST means cheaper prices in our shops.

You certainly would not hear that from the Labor opposition. It also highlights the importance of having effective information campaigns so that people do understand the changes to the tax system. He goes on:

In regards to the completion of the BAS I am amazed that business owners are finding this time consuming. We complete our BAS statement in approximately 10 minutes and do not find it at all complicated. What all the fuss is about beats me. I mention this to my business neighbour and he also finds the BAS very easy to complete and he advises me that he can complete the return in approx. 10 minutes also.

The introduction of the GST has encouraged us to streamline our accounting practices—surely this did cost us money to set up initially, however our business is now far better off because of the new accounting methods. As far as we are concerned we are far better off following the introduction of the GST.

He goes on with some other details there. That really highlights what a lot of small business people have found with the new tax system. The whole idea was to implement a tax system which was streamlined, which was effective and which got rid of the old, outdated wholesale sales tax regime. I am very proud to be part of a government that had the determination and the courage to introduce a tax system which the Labor opposition knew had to be introduced in this country, but they never had the determination or the will to make the hard decisions to take this country forward.