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Address to the New South Wales Business Chamber, 3rd Annual Australian Business Congress, Sydney

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Address to the New South Wales Business Chamber, 3rd Annual Australian Business Congress, Sydney July 31, 2013


Richard, thank you very much indeed for making me so welcome. It’s an honour to be here amongst so many representatives of the chambers of commerce right around our country, but particularly amongst so many representatives of small business right

around our country and I want to pay particular tribute today to the chief of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter Anderson who has been a tremendous apostle of good policy, a tremendous advocate for small business.

He and I have worked together very closely for quite a few years now and I hope that in a few weeks’ time, we may be able to

work even more closely and more influentially together than we have been able in recent times, but Peter, you do a terrific job and thank you so much for the contribution you’ve made to our country.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I look out around this room, as I see people representing small business, people representing business

more generally, people in business, I don’t see people who are exploiting their workers. I don’t see people who are spoiling the environment. I don’t see people who are ripping off their customers, I see people who are building our nation. I see people who

are vitally contributing to our community. I see people who are investing, who are employing and who are serving every single Australian.

Yes, our society needs its doctors, its dentists, its nurses. We need our teachers and our social workers. We need our public

servants, we need our philanthropists. We need our idealists. We need all of those people, but if we didn’t have the businesses of this country to employ, to invest and to serve, our society simply couldn’t exist. And I think all too often, people in influence, people

in authority forget the fundamental importance - the critical importance of business to everything that we value and everything that we hold dear.

But I never forget that. Every day, I remind myself that we cannot have communities that we cannot have a society without

economies to sustain them and we cannot have a prosperous and strong economy without dynamic and profitable businesses to sustain that. Our society, our country, our life critically depends upon profitable and dynamic business. I don’t say that every single

last thing that is good for business is automatically and inevitably good for everyone. Yes there is a national interest as well as a business interest, but we cannot, we cannot advance our country without also protecting, preserving and encouraging the

businesses on which our economy absolutely depends.

And I want to pay a particular tribute in our business mix to the small business people of our country, because unlike those in big business, small business people invariably have their whole life on the line.

The worst that can happen to people in big business normally is that they might lose their job, but when a small business goes

bad, usually the principal of that small business loses his or her home as well. Often family too - that’s why the small businesses of Australia have skin in the game in a way that almost no-one does and that’s why they are particularly deserving of respect and

consideration from people in authority.

So I want to assure you that if there is a change of government, your concerns and your interests will be very much at the forefront of an incoming Coalition government’s thinking. We think about small business because so many of us have been in

small business, Bruce Billson, the Shadow Minister for instance has been in small business for much of his life. His family is in small business and it’s true of the vast majority of the members of the federal Parliamentary Coalition that we have been at some

point in our lives, in small business.

So we understand business and we want to do the right thing by small business in particular and that is why we are so committed to a process of thorough going economic reform. Economic reform starts with getting taxes down, with getting spending down,

with getting productivity up so that we can get growth up, because in the end, it is economic growth that will give us what we need to improve our society and to help every Australian to come closer to being his or her best self.

I don’t want to be the leader of a Government which is all talk and no action. That’s the last thing that I would want to be and I

know that many of you in this room are frustrated with Governments that have been all good intentions, but very little in the way of real outcomes.

So what I want to talk to you for a few moments about now are the specific things that will happen under a Coalition government

Tony Abbott Federal Member for Warringah | Leader of the Opposition

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that will make it easier for you to get about doing your jobs and expanding your businesses. There will be tax reform in the first term of a Coalition government.

And tax reform starts with abolishing the carbon tax and abolishing the mining tax and providing a modest company tax cut particularly directed towards small business. That’s where it starts. It starts with abolishing the carbon tax and abolishing the

mining tax but it doesn't finish there. It certainly doesn't finish there. That's why within two years of the election of a Coalition government, we will publish a comprehensive White Paper on tax reform and we will take proposals from that paper based on that

paper to a subsequent election.

Reform of government starts with the commission of audit which will review the size, scope and efficiency of government that will get under way within days of a change of government in Canberra. But it doesn't end there, it doesn’t end there. Within two years

of the election of a Coalition government we will publish a comprehensive White Paper on reform of our federation designed to ensure that we don't have the kind of dog's breakfast of divided responsibilities which has so bedevilled anyone doing business

with government in Australia in recent times. We will have genuine red tape reform. The Productivity Commission estimated in 2011 that there were $12 billion a year in economic benefits from red tape reform. So, we believe that it is more than possible to

deliver $1 billion a year in red tape reductions, red tape cost reductions to business particularly to small business and we'll start by allowing business, small businesses to just send one cheque to the ATO for the superannuation guarantee levies of your staff. We

will have the Family Assistance Office administer paid parental leave because what is essentially a governmental benefit even if it is as it should a workplace entitlement ought to be administered by government and it shouldn’t be adding to your red tape


So, there will be serious red tape reform under a Coalition government. There will be productivity reform under a Coalition government and that starts by fully restoring the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which many of you would be

familiar with. The Australian Building and Construction Commission added some $6 billion a year in productivity improvements to the construction sector when it was fully operational and it will be fully operational again within months of the election of a

Coalition government. While our workplace relations changes will be within the framework of the existing Fair Work Act, they will nevertheless restore the workplace relations pendulum back to the sensible centre. I want Australian workers to be the best paid

in the world. But if they are going to be the best paid in the world, they also have to be amongst the most productive in the world. That hasn't been the case over the last few years.

We will have infrastructure reform. I know this is something very dear to your heart. We will have infrastructure reform because

people who are stuck in traffic jams, moving around our cities, moving between our regional centres, are obviously far less productive than they should be. Infrastructure reform starts with building WestConnex here in Sydney, it continues with building

the East West Link in Melbourne, getting on with the Gateway upgrade in Brisbane, the Perth Gateway project, the north-south road in Adelaide, it continues with the upgrade of the Midland Highway in Tasmania, finally duplicating the Pacific Highway all the

way between Newcastle and the Queensland border and upgrading the Bruce Highway so that it is no longer a 1970s goat track but is a highway fit for the 21st century. So all these changes will be substantially begun in a first term of a Coalition government.

Ladies and gentlemen, not all of you, but many of you have worked with me in different capacities in years past. You know that I

am by nature someone who wants to solve problems. I am by nature someone who wants to engage with those people who have business with government, and to try to make it easier, not harder for them. The first law of government should be do no harm and

where you are doing needless harm, fix it as quickly as you possibly can.

My first ministerial job was to run the employment services portfolio for John Howard back in 1998. We were in transition from the old commonwealth employment service bureaucracy to the Job Network, where these services were provided by a range of

private sector community-based and charitable organisations. Over time, it proved to be a much more effective way of getting people off welfare and into work.

But just then, when I took over, the whole system was grinding to a halt. Principally, because the public servants who were

administering the Job Network contracts were acting like lawyers, not like facilitators. My contribution - and I believe it was critical - to resolving this, was to make it absolutely crystal clear to the public servants that if the Job Network members had a problem,

the Government had a problem, and if the Government had a problem, they had a problem. Therefore, they just had to start acting like partners and not like bureaucrats, and I have to say that the Job Network went from strength to strength.

When I was the Workplace Relations Minister, as Peter Anderson would well recall, it quickly became apparent that in most

sectors of our economy partnerships in the workplace were developing and expanding. There was a new spirit in those days in our workplaces. The old them-and-us, capital-versus-labour divide was dissolving, except in one sector: the commercial

construction industry, where the rule of law was so often threatened by naked industrial thuggery.

So as a practical response to this, I established the Cole Royal Commission, the forerunner of the Australian Building and Construction Commission which, as everyone involved in that sector would know and would say, had a transformative effect.

Then of course when I became the health minister in 2003 I was confronted with a genuine crisis in our public hospital system.

The word ‘crisis’ is overworked, over-used .You never pick up the newspaper without reading about a crisis here or a crisis there. But there is a crisis in hospitals when you don’t have obstetricians, when you don’t have trauma surgeons and you don’t have

anaesthetists and the trouble was that back at that time, because of the problems with medical indemnity insurance, they were walking out of our public hospitals.

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Well, in conjunction with some fine leaders from the profession - led by Bill Glasson who is now our candidate for Griffith in Queensland running against a certain K-Rudd - in conjunction with some fine leaders of that profession we solved that difficulty

and the doctors went back to work on a sustainable basis and this has never been a significant problem from that day to this.

So that’s the record that I can offer you as a senior member of a government, a consistent record of practical problem solving in close partnership with the people impacted by the decisions of government and I am confident that that will be the hallmark of any

government that I lead, should we win the election due now - overdue now - in just a few weeks’ time.

I don’t want to make a highly partisan speech today because there may well still be some Labor voters amongst you - perhaps. But I do want to draw a contrast between the approach of the Coalition and the approach that we have seen time and time again

from our opponents.

Now, Mr Rudd likes to say that he’s changed. But the only substantial new policy that he has introduced since becoming Prime Minister again are the fringe benefit tax changes which have stopped motor sales in their tracks - in their tracks, and the

hallmarks of the fringe benefits tax changes were a total failure to consult, a total failure to understand the real nature of that industry, and as has so often been the case with this government, a policy that is such an economic activity killer that it is likely to

actually cost more revenue than any revenue that it actually brings in.

Sadly, that is typical of the current government. Whether it be the overpriced school halls, whether it be the pink batts, whether it be the National Broadband Network white elephant, lack of consultation, lack of due process, lack of familiarity with the world of

business has been their hallmark. And if this government is re-elected, as sure as night follows day, we will see higher taxes and bigger government. You will be once more the meat in the sandwich between this government's desire to spend and this

government's imperative to tax. It's just not good enough. It's just not good enough and it must change.

I have to say to you, ladies and gentlemen, that federal elections in this country are always hard fought. The coming election was going to be hard fought whether the leader of the Labor Party was Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd. It was always going to be a hard-fought, close contest. Certainly, as we know, this is a hard fought close contest even though the actual date has not been named but I want to say to you we will not forget small business. We will not forget small business. That's why today in addition to all the

other measures that have recently been announced for small business, I can announce that the B20 advisory group will include a small business representative and that will complement the announcements that I made last week about small business

representation on the board of taxation, the ACCC and the Fair Work Commission. That will complement the fact that we have in Bruce Billson not just a Minister for Small Business but an evangelist for small business and we have in Bruce Billson someone

who will not be a Minister but will be a Cabinet Minister in his own right, a Cabinet Minister simply for small business, not for small business and many other things. So we will not forget small business, and should we win the election, it certainly will be a

government for small business. I am passionate about this and we will deliver.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think Australia is ready for change. I don't think Australians want another three years like the last six years. If that's to happen, people like Bruce Billson and myself will need to work harder than we've ever worked before. We will

need to campaign harder than we've ever campaigned before. I do hope some of you might join us in this effort. Not necessarily because you want to be politically partisan but because you want to build a better Australia, because you know in the marrow of

your bones that there can only be a better Australia if there is a better climate for small business to operate in.

So ladies and gentlemen, if, as I hope, there is a change of government in a few weeks' time, I want to give you this assurance -from day one, it will be absolutely crystal clear that our country is under new management and from day one, it will be absolutely

crystal clear that our country is once more open for business.

Thank you so much for having me. It is great to be here and I look forward to meeting some of you at morning tea.


© Tony Abbott MHR 2010 | Authorised by Tony Abbott MHR, Level 2, 17 Sydney Rd, Manly NSW 2095

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