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Tuesday, 7 August 2001
Page: 29311

Mrs HULL (4:25 PM) —Today's MPI is tired and deficient. It is an example of a tired and deficient opposition who are just dredging up old MPIs, fiddling around the edges with them, and representing them as a new issue—a leaked document. It is the story of this policy-lazy opposition's performance in this House. This is proven by the fact that the last time I spoke in a debate on a matter of public importance, that MPI was also put up by the member for Hotham. It is quite ironic that the MPI on 28 March 2001 was:

The government's policy atrophy, resulting in the botched implementation of a range of measures, including the GST and business tax reform.

Doesn't that sound remarkably like `The government's failure to respond effectively to the damage it is causing small business by its botched implementation of the new tax system'? In the debate on 28 March, I pointed out that the Oxford Dictionary describes `atrophy' as `wasting away through under-nourishment, ageing, or lack of use; emaciation'. I can still relate to that with the opposition. In respect of emaciation, they are basically an undernourished opposition, as has been proven today by the pathetic performance with this MPI.

The matter of public importance should perhaps read: will Labor increase company tax? Will Labor reintroduce FID? Will Labor increase the rate of GST? Labor have already listed raising the employer superannuation contribution level to 15 per cent as a priority, and who does this most impact upon? Small business, of course. Labor's deficit budgets and high levels of debt pushed small business interest rates to record levels of 20 per cent and more in the early nineties, as the Minister for Small Business has said. Let us not forget this. Did the then Labor government care about us in small business? Why should they care about us now?

Labor have consistently voted to keep the damaging unfair dismissal law because union bosses demand it. Labor's pro-union industrial relations policy means that union bosses will have greater access to small business, even when none of the workers are union members. What did the Leader of the Opposition say on 6PR Perth on 7 August 2000? He said:

... we have never pretended to be a small business party.

That, ironically, is what the Leader of the Opposition said on 7 August 2000. This is the first anniversary of the pledge; we now have the divorce. Isn't that called jumping ship in troubled waters! Do you know what we will get? The Leader of the Opposition's commitment to small business will be the same as it was to the Commonwealth Bank. The Labor government actually went further than just signing a pledge not to sell the Commonwealth Bank; the ALP signed a legal document saying that they would not sell the Commonwealth Bank. However, as the then finance minister—now Leader of the Opposition, Mr Beazley— said in May 1995, `The real reason why we sold the Commonwealth Bank is there is no need for us to hold on to it any longer.' If this is what happens to you when the Leader of the Opposition has a commitment, just imagine what will happen to the small businesses of Australia, which obviously have no commitment from the Leader of the Opposition.

However, the Liberal-National coalition in joint government, who have been keeping the economy strong, who reward self-reliance and who are securing Australia's future, have represented small business. They have done that by keeping their interest rates low. Labor's huge budget deficits and a mountain of government debt—$96 billion in 1996—saw business interest rates climb to record levels of around 20 per cent.

By the end of June next year the Howard-Anderson government will have paid back $60 billion of Labor's debt. This has helped to take the pressure off business interest rates, which are now at 7.95 per cent. The coalition government will remain vigilant to keep the economy strong and provide the environment to assist small business survival and growth. Additionally, stamp duty on listed shares was abolished on 1 July this year, which will save around $675 million per year for the 5.7 million Australians who hold shares and the seven million Australians who have superannuation funds invested in shares.

This government listens to the real concerns of small business. It has simplified the tax system. Commencing on 1 July 2001, eligible small businesses are allowed to do their tax accounting on a cash basis, with simpler depreciation and trading stock rules. This will reduce the tax payable by small business by more than a billion dollars per year. Other important measures are the reduction in company tax, down from 34 per cent to 30 per cent. There is the abolition of financial institutions duty and there are very significant capital gains tax cuts. If you are in small business and you are an individual, you can roll your money into retirement, capital gains tax free, and you can defer capital gains tax to roll over into other businesses.

The Minister for Small Business referred to choice. The minister actually gave the opposition undue credit, because in fact the small businesses of Australia are not so fortunate: the Labor opposition is not a choice; a Labor government is even less of a choice. Small business has only one option: the Howard-Anderson joint government. The history of past Labor governments ensures this. There has also been no mention in this debate about the fact that the GST collection goes directly to the states. It follows, then, that small businesses should have more money spent on extra policing to protect their businesses from costly break and enters that are currently happening, particularly in the state of New South Wales. Some of this money should be put directly into benefits for small business.

The member for Hotham also made reference to Australian workplace agreements. That is interesting because, if you have a Labor government, you will not have a problem with AWAs; if you have a Labor government you will not have AWAs, just union controlled shops. It is as simple as that. There is very little choice for small business other than a coalition Howard-Anderson government that cares about small business and that delivers to small business such things as full input tax credits on new cars. Registered businesses are now able to claim full input tax credits on the purchase of motor vehicles. This means tax cuts for businesses of $570 million in 2001-02. Financial institution duties have been abolished. As the small business minister alluded to, export volumes continue to grow and are expected to grow by a solid five per cent in 2001-02. Australia's exporters are benefiting from the lower exchange rate and recent tax reform. This will help Australian exporters gain market share, supporting export growth in the face of slower world growth.

This MPI today really does interest the people in country Australia. They would be interested in the views that the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley, expressed in the Bulletin when he was asked about the difficulties of having former trade union bosses getting the support of the bush. He said:

It's not going to be difficult—

I have quoted this article before in the House.

They actually like Crean and Ferguson. They remember Crean when he was primary industries Minister ... Ferguson when he was ACTU president made a specialty of bush workers ...

Indeed a specialty of bush workers they did make, if there were any small businesses left after they had put the wash through us all. We are lucky to have this Howard-Anderson government, which is out there being able to make changes to encourage small businesses to be active in their attempts to create job opportunities. In fact, I am very committed to small business. As a small business person myself I have a major commitment to the survival of small business. As I have said many times before in this House, small businesses are very important to my electorate of Riverina. They are the engine room of the nation's economy and are our largest employment provider. Their money stays predominantly local and it multiplies to bring added benefits to the district. In expanding their businesses, small business people also utilise local providers. They traditionally buy local because they are local. They will continue to be local. They are small businesses under the Howard-Anderson government. (Time expired)

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Order! The time allotted for this discussion has concluded.