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Wednesday, 2 November 1983
Page: 2206


Mr ALDRED(3.23) —The honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) has already clearly illustrated that small business is the lifeblood of Australia's economy. Let me quote some statistics from the Chamber of Commerce in Sydney:

Small business makes up 99.4% of the enterprises in Australia; employs 42% of the work force (almost twice the number employed by big business or the public service respectively); provides 60% of Australia's gross domestic product.

In total, almost 1.6 million people are employed in small business. Small business is a major factor in leading the way in economic recovery, as renewed small business activity is essential in spurring on any economy after a recession. Small business generally, with its tremendous capacity for imagination, flexibility and growth, serves as one of the major stimulants to a competitive and efficient free enterprise system. In short, for Australia small business is big business.

Furthermore, in the wider social sense the maintenance of a viable small business sector is imperative if Australia is to remain basically the same sort of free society that it is now. Developments in the United Kingdon since the Second World War have been such that there has been an alarming tendency for a smaller number of large corporations to control a greater and greater proportion of production. In addition to the unhealthy concentration of economic power that this can involve, these corporations were, under Labour, increasingly subject to direct policy control by the United Kingdom central government and became highly vulnerable to trade union pressure. It could therefore be said that it is far easier for both government and unions to bring undue influence to bear on a small number of large corporations than it is for them to influence similarly a large number of small businesses. A disillusioned Mr Paul Johnson, former editor of the British Labour weekly, the New Statesman, who resigned his long-standing membership of the British Labour Party stated:

. . . it is the essence of corporation that the units must be large. And it is of the essence of modern union bureaucracy that workers are easier to control in big factories, where the organised militant clique rules all. So Labour ministers and union bosses are united in their up-ending of Labour's old posture . Both loathe the small business and the little workshop and penalise them viciously; both exhibit a positive hatred for the self-employed, who cannot be unionised or corporatised at all.

This is where the Labour Party is heading. It has already embraced corporatism, which ultimately must mean the end of parliamentary democracy.

This Australian Labor Government is also moving towards embracing corporatism. At the much publicised National Economic Summit Conference, where was small business represented? In fact, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) saw no need for small business; rather, he concentrated on big business and big unions. Why did this Government fail to have small business representation on the Economic Planning Advisory Council? It was only through pressure from the Opposition, particularly by the honourable member for Higgins, that a few weeks ago the Government caved in to Opposition pressure and accepted small business representation.

This Government does not give a damn about the small businessman. In February this year in Perth the Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins) launched 'a new deal' for small business. It was Labor's small business action program. At that time Labor claimed that this policy would 'revitalise small business'. Where is that program now? The Government has not fulfilled any of its promises to small business and there has been no legislation as promised. There has been no legislation to allow small business firms full retention of profits. There has been nothing to allow small business the option of paying provisional tax in quarterly instalments. Nothing has been done to the sales tax Act to allow a longer time to meet tax due by those businesses that have to pay up in 21 days, even when they collect only after 60 or 90 days. Both the mini- Budget and the Budget held little joy for the small businessman. The Melbourne Sun, on the day after the Federal Budget was brought down, stated:

The Federal Budget is to all intents and purposes a non-event for the business community.

The Budget may have been a non-event, but the Government's grabbing of Liberal legislation and twisting it into the withholding tax has hit the small businessman squarely between the eyes.

This Government's attitude contrasts sharply with that of previous Liberal governments. Over the last decade or so several major studies of small business were commissioned by Liberal governments. The first of these was the Wiltshire report of 1971 and the most recent one was by John Bailey on small business education and training. Emphasis and conclusions vary somewhat between the major studies, but most highlight three major national needs: The need for adequate finance for small business; the need for practical training, especially in management and financial matters; and, finally, the need for small business men and women to have access to accurate and expert information on realistic new business opportunities. This Government would be well advised to take up these points, especially the need to further develop counselling and training. Current statistics show that 64 per cent of small businesses fail due to the lack of management expertise. The acute need for sound training materials therefore becomes most apparent.

As a former chairman of a government back bench committee on small business, I strongly urge this Government to take up the significant initiatives introduced by the previous Liberal Government. I know that Labor's policy has already copied many aspects of the previous Government's initiatives, but let me remind this House that it was the Fraser Government that moved that the Division 7 retention allowance for private companies be increased three times, to its present level of 80 per cent. It was the Liberal Government that improved access to finance through the Commonwealth Development Bank. It was the Liberal Government which introduced tax deductibility for tax contributions by self- employed people to a qualifying superannuation fund. It was the Liberal Government which abolished Federal estate and gift duty to facilitate the easier passing of a family business from one generation to another. Liberal Federal Budgets provided generous depreciation provisions, a continuation of industrial research and development schemes and a strengthening of the export market development scheme. Our record in this area is good. To show that this Government is genuine in its concern for small business, it should declare 1984 as the year for small business.