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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Page: 8120

Small Business

Senator HUME (VictoriaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:25): My question is to the Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation, Senator McKenzie. How is the Liberal-National government delivering for regional Australia through additional investment and support for small businesses in regional communities?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (14:25): Thank you, Senator Hume, for your question. Australia is a small-business nation, and our economy is strong thanks to hardworking small and family businesses. A strong small-business sector means more jobs and stronger communities.

Today, the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced that the Liberal-National government will provide even more support to help grow small businesses right across Australia. This announcement recognises the reality that small businesses are increasingly finding it more difficult to obtain finance to grow and to employ more people. The creation of the $2 billion Australian Business Securitisation Fund will enable greater access to finance for small businesses, on more competitive terms, when they need it. They'll also be able to support them to expand their operations and create more jobs locally.

Ninety-seven per cent of Australian businesses are small businesses. They account for 33 per cent of Australia's GDP and employ over 40 per cent of our workforce. They pay 12 per cent of the company tax revenue. The announcement today is incredibly good news for small businesses operating right across regional Australia and in our home state of Victoria.

Damien Cofield of Cofield Wines, Wahgunyah, in the great north-east of Victoria, is able to access the $2 billion—

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

Senator McKENZIE: Yes, Senator Carr, in the great electorate of Indi. The small-business fund couldn't have come at a better time. He said, 'There are great opportunities in overseas markets, but we're struggling to come up with the capital through normal channels to grow the business.' He said, 'The other benefit is that we will buy our wine vats regionally at other local businesses in Wodonga.' So other regional businesses win as well.

Our government understands the needs of small business. We have a strong track record of delivery, including cutting the small-business tax rate, extending the instant asset write-off and simplifying the BAS. With more than three million small businesses across the country, the government is strongly committed to focusing on them and the jobs they create.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hume, a supplementary question.

Senator HUME (VictoriaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:27): Indeed, the $2 billion Australian Business Securitisation Fund is a very, very welcome announcement. Can the minister potentially expand for the Senate how the government's support of small businesses will help grow and create jobs, specifically in regional communities?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (14:28): Today's announcement will benefit regional and rural Australians and Victoria by increasing access to finance to help those small businesses grow. With small businesses in the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors contributing around $22 billion to our GDP, we want to continue to grow these industries so they can employ more regional Australians.

Small businesses provide the majority of employment in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors—around 82 per cent of the jobs, or more than 421,000 Australians. That's exactly why the creation of the fund will benefit small businesses like Bertolis agriculture in Shepparton. The owner, Paul Bertoli, employs around 40 locals and supplies machinery to farmers and businesses right across the north-east of Victoria. He said that he's constantly hearing how federal government support for small business is having a positive result for owners and their customers alike throughout the regions. Small businesses right across Australia understand it's only a Liberal-National government that will back them to grow and prosper.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hume, a final supplementary question.

Senator HUME (VictoriaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:29): Can the minister explain why it is so important for the government to have a firm focus on regional businesses, given the risks of alternative approaches?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (14:29): The Liberal-National government unashamedly supports small businesses because we know they are critical to the economic growth of regional Australia. Backing regional small businesses to grow means that more Australians are employed and that other small businesses are supported in the local area.

Labor doesn't support small businesses. Neither Bill Shorten nor Daniel Andrews wants to see them grow and prosper. They still see small businesses—family owned and run businesses—as a continued threat to union membership. They especially fail to understand the importance of those businesses to regional communities. Union membership in the private sector has fallen, demonstrating that both unions and the Labor Party don't understand the modern reality of running a small, family owned operation. On this side of the chamber, we believe in providing the right conditions for small businesses to grow, be successful and employ more Australians. When you work hard to earn money, you should be able to keep more of that money. Those opposite believe in taking it away. We'll back business all the way.