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Monday, 4 November 1996
Page: 4976

Senator CALVERT —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Hill, and it concerns small business. Will the minister inform the Senate of the findings of the Small Business Deregulation Task Force, which released its report Time for business last Friday? What has been the reaction to the report, and what actions will the government be taking to further deliver on the commitment made by the government to this crucial sector of the Australian economy?

Senator HILL —I thank the honourable senator for his question. This is an important matter and good news for small business after the long drought of Labor. Last Friday the Small Business Deregulation Task Force did present its report Time for business to the Prime Minister in Sydney. That task force, senators will remember, was established on 2 May, which delivered on a commitment made by the government in its policy, a new deal for small business.

The report is the result of six months of intensive research and consultation, including talks with 250 small business operators, industry associations and government officials, as well as receiving the analysis of some 366 submissions. The release of the report demonstrates the depth of the government's commitment to Australian small business.

The report contains 62 recommendations addressing a wide range of small business concerns and makes some practical recommendations to reduce paperwork and the compliance burden, which will allow small business to get on and grow and to employ. Issues identified in the report include taxation, employment regulations, statistics, housing, chemicals, food, environment, provision of information, reducing government focus, government purchasing, monitoring and reporting arrangements as well as others.

The government will be considering the task force recommendations carefully over the next few months. The Prime Minister indicated on Friday that the government will outline a comprehensive response to the report by no later than the middle of February. He is also announcing today some immediate measures to assist small business.

It is pleasing to see the reaction to the report by business groups and commentators. I remind you of that by the comments of the Housing Industry Association Ltd, which said:

The Small Business Taskforce is to be applauded on its Report to the Commonwealth Government. The Taskforce consulted widely and as a result, the report captures the real regulatory concerns facing small business in their day-to-day operation.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia said:

The report by the Small Business Deregulation Taskforce is a victory for common sense and will provide real gains for small business if the recommendations are adopted . . .

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said:

The ACCI strongly supports the thrust of the Small Business Deregulation Task Force's recommendations for action to reduce the burden of compliance on small business . . . The ACCI congratulates the Small Business Deregulation Taskforce on their thorough examination of the issues and on their practical recommendations for reform.

The Motor Trades Industry Association said:

The initiative of the Coalition Government in proposing, as an election commitment, to establish the Task Force, the action of the Minister for Small Business and Consumer Affairs in quickly moving to undertake this important work and the dedication of the Task Force members in reporting in a timely fashion are all deserving of high praise.

This is an example of government working for the benefit of small business—small business which is so critical to the economic and employment future of Australia. It now has in place a government that understands its problems and will deliver to enable a better outcome for small business, with benefits that naturally flow to all Australians.

Senator CALVERT —Madam President, I have a supplementary question. I ask the minister: have there been any other favourable reactions to the report?

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator HILL —The mirth from the other side is interesting because one of the favourable responses was from Senator Cook. Senator Cook took a long time to say it—13 years of Labor government—but now we are in office he said:

The report goes on to make some useful recommendations in terms of the regulatory culture that exists within government and further work that needs to be done in implementing the recommendations.

Isn't it fascinating? They had 13 years to do something about it for the benefit of small business, they did nothing and, suddenly, from opposition, Senator Cook recognises that small business does have a problem with compliance. Yes, it does have a problem with compliance because it is still operating under Labor's legacy. The income tax act tripled in size under Labor—1,300 pages to 3,700 pages; provisional tax went up; bankruptcies reached record levels. I am pleased that Senator Cook has finally realised what good government can produce. (Time expired)