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Tuesday, 7 August 2001
Page: 29289

Mr FITZGIBBON (2:37 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Small Business. Minister, do you recall telling this House on 31 May this year:

I have absolute confidence that the business men and business women of Australia will greet, enjoy and profit from the Coalition's new tax system.

Minister, what then do you say to Jennie and Bill Kercher, who recently placed the following advertisement in a Kempsey newspaper:

PUBLIC NOTICE: Rondon's Menswear Kempsey will cease trading approximately July 31 2001, due to a huge general decline in the Retail Sector in the last financial year with the GST.

Minister, given that small business continues to suffer because of your new tax system, why don't you adopt Labor's plan for more GST simplification?

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Minister for Small Business) —I will check the quote, because I do not take anything that the Labor Party says at face value. I am interested in all small businesses in Australia, and I am concerned if any small business has found the last 12 months to be difficult. But it is interesting, when you look at the insolvency data and you talk to ITSA, that in ITSA's discussions with those businesses not one of them mentioned the GST as being the reason for their insolvency.

The shadow minister also quoted figures relating to retail trade. Retail trade in June showed a solid increase of 1.1 per cent, but for small business it was a growth of 5.9 per cent. The reality is that the economy of Australia continues to grow—and continues to grow, in the estimation of overseas bodies, at the fastest rate in the world. In the last 12 months, during which we have had a GST, our economy has become the fastest growing economy in the world.