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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9769

Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (16:43): I rise today to add my voice to this series of bills, the Business Names Registration Bill 2011, the Business Names Registration (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2011 and the Business Names Registration (Fees) Bill 2011. I hope the member for Blair never organises a surprise birthday party for me because there was not much of a surprise in anything he had to say.

This bill is supported by the coalition. Once again, we have seen good cooperation from the coalition and now by the current government in bringing these bills into this place and into fruition. This was a process which started in 2006. It was the result of the Regulation Taskforce, a task force on reducing regulatory burden on business, and was released on 7 April 2006. It followed a lot of consultation, especially by the Office of Small Business as it was then in 2006. It followed this process right the way through to where we are now. I commend all the people who have worked in that office from 2006 to today for the wonderful work that they do, in particular in bringing this bill to fruition, because it is a good bill and it will help reduce regulation for small business in Australia.

I want to go a tiny bit into the detail of the bill. As the intergovernmental agreement states:

A. The parties agree to establish a national system for business name registration to be implemented by Commonwealth legislation, supported by State text‐based referrals of certain matters to the Commonwealth Parliament, in accordance with paragraph 51(xxxvii) of the Commonwealth Constitution.

B. The Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory and the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory have legislative powers in relation to business names and the registration of business names under Commonwealth self‐government legislation, and therefore the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are parties to this agreement, but, having regard to paragraph 51(xxxvii) and section 122 of the Commonwealth Constitution, they will not make a referral.

C. The Commonwealth will introduce legislation to establish a national system for the registration of business names.

As the chief of staff for the former Minister for Small Business and Tourism, I played a very small part in helping this reform get off the ground. I acknowledge the former Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Fran Bailey, who also drove this, and the small business adviser with responsibility in the minister's office at the time, Kate Davies.

It is a good reform. One has only to look at the comparison of fees in state jurisdictions for registering a business name. For instance, in the ACT it is $151; in Queensland it is $255; and in Victoria it is $85.50. For us now to have a uniform rate is a very good start, as is making sure that we have a national register. The way that it will be implemented I think also shows that the government and, before it, the coalition in framing the way these bills have been set up have done it in a very common-sense and sensible way. Where there are business names that will coincide, businesses are able to list the state they come from so that we will not get a lot of discussion, a lot of debate, over whether a business in Queensland with the same name as one in Victoria will then have to go through all sorts of issues as to who can keep that name and who cannot. We also have the situation now where, for every new business that is registered, that name becomes unique. That is a very good outcome. I commend everyone who has been involved.

There will of course be some teething problems. The member for Dunkley has mentioned the issue of independent contractors. I think he is right to note that issue. The former shadow minister for small business, Craig Emerson, before the 2007 election, gave ironclad guarantees to the independent contractor segment of our business community. I do not think that what we have seen since then has honoured those guarantees that he gave. It would be a terrible shame if this reform were used against them, and that is something that we here on this side will be watching.

Other aspects of the bill are that to trade under a business name an entity will be required to register and include the business name in written communications relating to the commercial dealings of the business. An ABN will also need to be displayed on a smaller number of documents, consistent with the ACN for incorporated entities under the Corporations Act. So there is a very sensible approach to the registering of a business name.

This will be important for my electorate of Wannon because we have a lot of small businesses in the electorate. The total of small businesses—that is, people who employ one to 19 employees—in my electorate is 13,376. Ninety-seven per cent of all businesses in Wannon are small businesses. As you go around especially regional and rural Australia, it becomes apparent how important small business communities are to these sectors. That is why we have to do everything we can to reduce regulation on these small businesses. This is a good bill because it does that. Unfortunately, in 2007 we also saw a commitment by the government of a one in, one out rule when it came to regulation. Sadly, we have not seen that commitment honoured and, at the moment, 220 regulations are being introduced for every one that has been taken out. That is adding to the burden on small business in my electorate and across Australia, which is a shame. But I commend this bill because it is 'one regulation in,' which will help reduce regulation, unlike what small business will be facing, especially when it comes to the carbon tax—and it looks as though we will see the legislation on that this week.

We have 6,028 small businesses in my community which are in the agricultural sector, 358 in the manufacturing sector, 820 in the retail sector and 599 in the transport sector. It is important that we do all we can for these small businesses in reducing the regulation burden. I hope that we will see more bills from the government along these lines, which are actually reducing regulation. It does not seem that we are seeing proper scrutiny of the bills with regard to their regulatory impact. In fact, some of the major bills which have been presented in this parliament are not having a regulatory impact statement conducted on them and I think that is a shame. Since 2007 we have lost over 300,000 jobs in the small business sector. Every regulatory burden that is added will increase the number of job losses in that sector. It makes it so hard for small business to operate if they have a regulatory burden around their neck. We have to do everything we can to ensure that they operate in an environment which encourages them to employ and hire people—whether as casual or full-time employees—and to expand and grow their businesses. What we are currently hearing from small business, especially in my electorate, is that they do not want to expand or grow at the moment because the burdens of doing so are so great.

Hopefully, we will see more action on this, more use of regulatory impact statements and regulations removed from small business. It gives me no joy to mention that, since 2007, over 12,000 regulations have been introduced and only 58 repealed. Sadly, that makes a bit of a mockery of this one in, one out promise.

On our side, our record in government clearly demonstrates that we were committed to growth in the small business sector and committed to easing the regulatory burden when it came to the workplace and to taxation and superannuation. We were committed to reducing regulation for small business. At the last election the coalition committed to reducing the regulatory cost to all businesses by at least $1 billion a year and not changing current laws relating to the treatment of personal services income, which is obviously so crucial to the independent contractors segment.

Practical examples of the coalition reducing the red-tape burden are highlighted by giving small businesses the option to remit the compulsory superannuation payments, made on behalf of workers, directly to the ATO. That is a very good, commonsense approach to helping small businesses reduce the regulatory burden. The coalition also recognised for small business men and women that less paperwork means higher profits, boosted sales and more time with the family. We were also looking at doing other things to help them, especially helping them create more paperless businesses so that they could operate their businesses and get on with what they do well, which is earning income, growing their businesses and employing people. I commend this bill. I think it is a bill which, if implemented correctly, will reduce red tape, allowing us to have a national registration system. It means that small businesses can freely operate, as they grow, between states, and that is a good move. They do not, as they expand, have to go to state-by-state seeking to register their business. So this is a good move. I would like to once again commend the Office of Small Business. This bill started there in 2006. I would also like to commend the people involved with the report in 2006, which suggested that this was a way forward. This is good, commonsense reform for small business. It reduces the regulatory burden. I hope that we will see a lot more of it and I hope, in particular, we will see a lot more of it for the 14,184 businesses in Wannon.

There is no question at the moment that the retail sector is suffering and, if it were not for the strong growth in agriculture at the moment that is propping up the retail sector in many of the smaller towns, we would be facing a more difficult time in my electorate. Manufacturing is also struggling at the moment. We need to see rules and regulations put in place that will support small businesses in those areas. Transport, fortunately with the dairy produce, the grain, and the timber, which is being transported in my electorate at the moment, is doing reasonably well at the moment. But what the transport sector does not need is extra burdens added to it and, sadly, the carbon tax will do that to the transport sector, especially with the impact that it is going to have on fuel when that is implemented in a couple of years time. That is going to have a detrimental impact on the transport sector, many of whom are single operators in my electorate and do a great job. I commend this bill to the House. I thank all those who helped to bring it to this chamber for us to debate. A lot of hard work has got this bill where it is. Those people who played their part deserve to be commended.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): I thank the member for Wannon. He showed great restraint.