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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 13064

Mr CIOBO (3:25 PM) —I am mindful that it is less than a month until Christmas and, in a charitable spirit, my question is to the Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy—

Government members interjecting—

Mr CIOBO —I will try to address this festively. I refer the minister to Labor’s election promise to introduce BAS Easy and to have government departments pay all small businesses’ invoices on time. When will this election promise be met?

Dr EMERSON (Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy, Minister Assisting the Finance Minister on Deregulation and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs) —I sure do thank the shadow minister for small business for his question. It must be a blessed relief, because it is 546 days since he last asked me a question. If he had missed out today—and I am glad that the member for O’Connor has agreed, as chair of tactics, that he should finally get a question—it would have been 614 days until 2 February. The clock was ticking. It would have been 53,136,000 seconds since he last asked a question, so he has just slipped in, in the nick of time.

Ms Julie Bishop —It’s on your hand!

Dr EMERSON —It is on my hand, absolutely. I do it every day—waiting, waiting, waiting. The great moment has occurred just before the reshuffle, just in the nick of time. But to answer the question, in relation to BAS Easy, we have produced a very substantial reform in the form of standard business reporting, which will cut down GST paperwork requirements by up to 70 per cent. We are concentrating on the standard business reporting initiative, which I think was actually supported by the previous coalition government, by the previous member for Higgins. That standard business reporting mechanism is going to be very effective in achieving the very objectives of BAS Easy.

We are nevertheless going through a public consultation process working with the small business community, with those who remain outside of the standard business reporting initiative, so that we can work with them through the simplified accounting methods available under the GST administration, to do everything we can—to do what the coalition failed to do. I remember a book about—

Opposition members interjecting—

Dr EMERSON —You can join the book club. Come in with a few policy ideas. I will tell you where the coalition’s policy ideas come from—from the fellow who challenged the Leader of the Opposition yesterday. That is none other than the member for Menzies. He is nodding, because he was given policy responsibility.

Mr Ciobo —Mr Speaker, on a point of order on relevance: it was a straightforward question and deserves a straight forward answer.

The SPEAKER —The minister is required to relate his material to the question.

Dr EMERSON —We were talking about policy development. We were talking about BAS Easy. The point is that the member for Menzies has been given responsibility for policy development by the other side, by the Leader of the Opposition, freeing up the entire frontbench to engage in a campaign of fear and smear—

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will relate his remarks to the question.

Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My point of order is on behalf of the small business people of this town, who do not want clowns—

The SPEAKER —The member for O’Connor will resume his seat.

Mr Shorten —Wilson, if you keep running the Liberal Party, you will be a small business!

The SPEAKER —The parliamentary secretary for disabilities is now warned.

Mr Pearce interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Aston should not get so excited, though! The minister has the call.

Dr EMERSON —I will go on to the late payment system in a moment, but I do observe in relation to the point of order that, today, the President of the United States pardoned a turkey. Now, what I am going to suggest is that the Leader of the Opposition pardons the turkey on the backbench!

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker—

The SPEAKER —The member for North Sydney will resume his seat. The minister will either relate his material to the question or sit down.

Dr EMERSON —We did make a commitment to the late payment system. We will be issuing a report in the very near future, just after the first anniversary of the commitment coming into force. Of course, we need to report on the first year’s results—

Opposition members interjecting—

Dr EMERSON —but I tell you this: when it comes out, you will be very disappointed. You will be very disappointed with the results, because they are very encouraging results—again, another Rudd government election commitment being met on time. So get in line, support small business in this community and pardon the turkey.