House debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Matters of Public Importance

Economy

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable member for Dunkley proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The impact of increased taxes on small business.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

3:07 pm

Photo of Bruce BillsonBruce Billson (Dunkley, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Small Business, Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

The topic today is very important: the impact of increased taxes on small business. I remind the chamber of a great quote from a great leader, Winston Churchill, who said, 'For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up by the handle.' That is the logic we have got from this government. They think that more taxes will somehow generate greater prosperity and greater small business opportunities in this country. What are the small business community asking themselves? They are asking: when will this government stop kicking small business? When will the Greens and the government alliance crossbenchers stop holding down small businesses or steadfastly looking the other way while the Gillard government gives them another kick?

We saw it last night and we got a taste of it today during question time. The Gillard government want you to believe that it is taxing big miners to share prosperity with small businesses across Australia, but they will not tell you how it was the coalition parties that last night stood up against a 25 per cent tax hike for 400,000 of Australia's smallest businesses. Last night the government moved, under the veil of the mining tax package, that it would abolish the entrepreneurs tax offset, which is a modest 25 per cent rebate for our 400,000 smallest businesses, who maximise its benefit at $50,000 of income, and it is tapered out at $75,000. So now 400,000 of our smallest businesses, which are not earning more than $75,000, are going to face a tax increase of up to 25 per cent. Who stood up for them in this chamber? The Liberal and National parties. I give credit to some of the crossbenchers who understand that small business matters, but you need to do more than just talk about it. You cannot talk a good game. It is what you do about it that counts.

After I did a doorstop interview highlighting this attack and tax hike on Australia's smallest businesses, the member for New England was asked about this. He was asked about my observation about the tax hike that was passed last night. Do you know what he said? He said he did not know. He had no knowledge that this tax hike was part of the package of bills last night. He had no understanding, because of the sugar-coated briefings the Gillard government provides the crossbenchers—the self-serving nonsense that carves out all the bitter things that are part of this government's agenda. He was not aware that embedded in the legislation was a tax hike for probably 1,600 or 1,700 small businesses in the member for New England's electorate. He said he was not aware of it. How could he not be aware of it? When you look at the Tax Laws Amendment (Stronger, Fairer, Simpler and Other Measures) Bill 2011, you can see that schedule 1 says it abolishes the entrepreneurs tax offset. We have raised this point over and over again in this parliament, highlighting the impact on the smallest businesses in Australia, but the member for New England said he did not know about it. You would think this article from Monday entitled 'Small business tax bomb' would be a bit of a hint. Do you reckon that would set off an 'aha' that something is going on? Apparently not.

Last night the member for New England and some of his government alliance crossbench colleagues voted with Labor to impose a tax hike of 25 per cent on Australia's smallest businesses—and that is spreading the benefits of the mining boom! It has been revealed over and over that the big miners are not likely to pay any of this mining resource rent tax increase for at least the forward estimates period. They will not be suffering. No wonder they do not think it is a bad deal. They will be immune from it because of the carve-outs and the negotiations between the Prime Minister and the mining companies that were too smart by half for this government. They will not be affected by it, but 400,000 of our smallest businesses—those microbusinesses, those women returning to the workforce, those home based businesses and those independent retailers just trying to make a go of it in a very difficult economic climate—will be copping it. They will be copping an increase of up to 25 per cent in their tax liability.

What is the government's explanation? They can go out and buy a car and get accelerated depreciation. As Barbara Gabogreca from Home Based Business Australia said, how many of these microbusinesses have a lazy $30,000 to buy a new ute? Buy a new ute, spend $30,000 of your scarce cash, and you might get about $1,800 back as a cash-flow benefit, but not in the year you spend it. You may get it in October the following year. What kind of cash-flow advantage is that? Small business is saying that that is the kind of help they can really do without—spend a lot to get a little back and then get a tax hike on the way through.

But it gets worse. That is just tax increase No. 1 that is harming small business. If you look further in the package last night, you will see the superannuation guarantee increase. There was a three per cent increase in superannuation guarantee contributions. We rightly opposed that, recognising that is a three per cent increase in payroll costs for our smallest businesses at a time when they are doing it very tough and when trading conditions are very punishing for that community. We make the point over and over again that the Henry tax review said you could achieve adequacy in retirement incomes not by increasing the employer contributions but by looking at the way ingoings and earnings are taxed. It is legitimate for the coalition to look at that research. But the government said, 'Employers can pay that.' Then they walk around this country with the great big Labor line, 'The mining tax will pay for it.' I have a message for the government and Labor MPs: employer funded superannuation is paid by employers. It is not paid by the mining tax; employers pay it. In a press conference today they perpetuated this line. Did you see the press conference? The Prime Minister and the Assistant Treasurer were trying to explain what was going on. The Prime Minister was asked:

You've talked about how the mining tax pays for tax issues that the government has, but who pays for the move from 9 to 12%? The 3% is paid for by employers, isn't it, or are employees forgoing wages and saving them?

Ms Gillard said, 'I'll turn to the Assistant Treasurer.' I will take a step back. The Assistant Treasurer said:

When the conservatives say that increasing superannuation from 9 to 12% over the next seven years is a cost on employers they are lying.

That is what the Assistant Treasurer said in a press conference today. The coalition parties highlighted the simple, indisputable fact that employer superannuation contributions are paid for by employers, yet the Assistant Treasurer ran around saying that when making that simple, factual, uncontested statement we are lying. We know where the nonsense is coming from. We know where the Labor line is coming from. He went on to say:

Increasing superannuation is not a cost in terms of employers because what happens is that it is offset against real wage increases.

I wonder whether the union movement is aware of that. I wonder whether the working men and women of Australia are aware that they are going to have a reduction in their take-home pay because of some arrangement about superannuation. The truth is there is no such arrangement. There is no such accord where there is a trade-off between wage increases and superannuation contributions. There is nothing of the sort. It is completely false and entirely calculated for the Assistant Treasurer to be making these statements. I say to every small business: the next time your payroll costs go up because you are paying more superannuation contributions, just think about the Assistant Treasurer. He said that you are not really paying it after all. What is it—funny money? That is the way the government goes about running the budget in this country.

But it gets worse. It is bad enough that 400,000 of Australia's smallest businesses are getting up to a 25 per cent increase in their tax and are being told that they should suck that up on the basis of 'spend a lot to get a little bit back' for some of the write-off arrangements and bring-forward benefits they were going to get anyway. They are then told that they have increasing payroll contributions for superannuation, though they are not paying that either. Somehow the tooth fairy is paying for that. The government have been spending too much time with the Greens, haven't they? That is the only explanation as to what is going on here. This kind of funny-money logic is quite remarkable.

But dig a bit deeper and go to the great big carbon tax. Colleagues, remember how there was not a dime of compensation for the small business community? Remember how, with all the carve-outs and all the compensation arrangements, small business was told to suck it up, pass it onto customers, and look after themselves as best they could? What happened during those chilly years when the government was going around telling everybody, 'The carbon tax won't hurt that much; you'll get compensated but it won't hurt that much'? This was at a time when its modelling was proved to be completely unreliable. It was understating the impact on electricity by about 60 per cent and it could not even credit some of the herculean assumptions that the world was going to come on board and that America was going to do all sorts of things. There would be a feverish market of carbon credits that would make everything so cheap you would barely notice it.

We then had the Prime Minister at a press conference in Brisbane saying that there would be a tough carbon cop on the beat. Remember that? That would be the ACCC. That tough carbon cop is going to make sure prices to consumers would not increase by more than one per cent. Is there any evidence to back up that claim? None. The macro-economic modelling is wrong but the government has not even bothered to do an analysis of the actual carbon tax impact on individual goods and services. The Prime Minister claimed that this tough carbon cop would be on the beat and that consumers could rest assured that this painful carbon tax change would only hurt a little.

Well, it got worse last week. The ACCC released the guidelines that it, as the tough carbon cop, would be implementing. Nowhere in the guidelines does it mention anything about one per cent. There is no basis for it. The Prime Minister, in a self-serving exercise, made that up. It says that you can have a pre-Christmas sale but be very careful if you are going to have a pre-carbon-tax sale, because the ACCC might come and crack down on you. What kind of logic is that? The Prime Minister has gone out and verballed the small business community. They are terrified that this enormous tax is going to impact on their viability. Survey after survey shows that it will cost jobs, it will undermine profitability in small business, it will see people who are working have fewer hours and it will place those on the border in a very perilous state as they compete with overseas competitors who do not have a carbon tax.

According to the Prime Minister at the press conference, small businesses doing the right thing will not be putting up prices by any more than one per cent, even though there is no evidence to back that up. There is no basis in law for the role she was attributing to the ACCC. Then the ACCC said, 'Whatever statements you make, make sure you can back them up.' That is fair enough. Do you know why? Because, if you cannot back them up, you are at risk of being charged with false and misleading conduct, so it is important to back up those points. But when I look at the Prime Minister's statement, 'Businesses overwhelmingly will do the right thing and the only costs they will pass through is the less than one per cent cost of us putting a price on carbon,' we know there is no analysis to back that up. That is a prime ministerial declaration of a self-serving purpose designed to muzzle and intimidate small businesses to not pass on the true cost of the carbon tax impacts.

Then it gets worse. It is a $1.1 million fine. We cannot have pre-carbon-tax sales; otherwise you risk offending. I have a theory. When it comes to false and misleading representations about the carbon tax, I think I know who the first candidate could be for an investigation. I think it might be the Prime Minister making these claims about the role of the ACCC, unfounded in law and with no factual basis about the price impact on the costs of goods and services. If you are not happy enough with that, if that is a little too sophisticated, go back prior to the election: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' Remember that? Remember when the Prime Minister assured people of that? So, when I look at the ACCC guidelines, acquaint myself and reassure the small business community that the government has no idea what the impact of the carbon tax will be but they are entitled to pass on the cost increases that they incur where they can substantiate them, I know who the prime candidate for an investigation into false and misleading representations about the carbon tax should be. That would be our Prime Minister.

These are three taxes hurting small businesses right across the country. This is why 300,000 jobs are being lost in small business. This is why there are 22,000 fewer small businesses. This is why the former small business minister has been shunted off to be the trade minister or is away from the small businesses that were so inflamed by his non-performance, and he has been replaced with the Marcel Marceau of the frontbench. Does anybody know who the Gillard government's small business minister is?

Opposition members: No. Who is it?

He does not upset anybody because no-one knows who he is. But it underlines the point that, when decisions need to be made about the interests of small business—

Opposition members: Who is it? Tell us.

No, no—it would be more publicity than Senator Sherry has had all year. I remind this parliament that the Gillard government appointed Senator Sherry as the small business minister but he is not even in cabinet. So, when the big decisions are made and choices are evaluated about the impact of government policy on small business, who is there representing them? Nobody. I must say it is reflected in every decision they have made. When you get to ask what the Labor Party is doing for small business, it does not take long to come up with an answer. When you hear Senator Sherry and the Gillard government talking about how good they are for small business, I go back to that great philosopher, John McEnroe, who said after a bad line call at Wimbledon, 'You can't be serious.' (Time expired)

3:22 pm

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I must say that at a personal level I enjoy reasonable relations with the member for Dunkley, but listening to his speech I did feel we had entered the twilight zone of politics. There are opposition members saying, 'Oh, my goodness, we'll all be ruined; the government doesn't like small business.' Weren't they here last night, when they saw some of the good changes which we have introduced to assist small business? I am fortunate to have the opportunity to go through some of the accomplishments and plans the government has to keep assisting small business, because this government understands that small business is all about people. We can respect the aspiration to be your own boss and we also understand the importance of simplicity and trying to cut red tape. For parents who have to do the paperwork on a Sunday instead of spending time with their family, that is time that can never be replaced. This is a government who understands the value and the contribution of small business to our nation. We understand the legitimate aspiration of people to accomplish more and to be their own boss.

That is why we are simplifying the tax system. We can talk about a range of those measures, but I thought I would roll off a lazy eight ways we are doing it for the benefit of the member for Dunkley. First of all—in no particular order and courtesy of what we did last night—members who voted for the minerals resource rent tax have supported an instant asset write-off, so when you need to buy that valuable refrigerator or that photocopier or that capital item, courtesy of the Gillard government, between our Clean Energy Future package and the mining tax package, the instant asset write-off will rise from $1,000 to $6½ thousand. This is real money. This government understands not the twilight zone of the opposition, but the real world. That is real money that is going to materially assist 2.7 million small businesses.

What I do not understand is why the opposition, whenever they have a chance to back the little guy over the big guy, they always pick the big guy. What is it that makes Rio Tinto, Anglo American and BHP Billiton household names in the battling Frankston suburbs which the member for Dunkley represents? Why is it that he would vote to give $11 billion back to the richest companies in the world but not provide a $6½ thousand instant asset write-off for small business. The mind boggles, but of course in the twilight zone of the opposition, anything goes.

I promised to report on several other features of what we are doing for small business, again in no particular order. Just yesterday we released a discussion paper about how we have improved the operation of trusts in Australia—660,000 of them. The only contribution I have seen from the opposition on the question of trusts came from the member for North Sydney, the current shadow Treasurer, who had a thought bubble and said we should tax trusts the same as corporations. But don't worry: the red danger warning light went off in the opposition leader's office. They said, 'The member for North Sydney is on the loose; he's speaking first, thinking second.' Within a number of hours he had hauled down his colours and said, 'I'm very sorry, I was misquoted'—even though we all had a written copy of what he said.

There is another benefit in what we have been doing for small business. We are also changing the way the pay-as-you-go instalments operate so that small business can receive the benefit of $700 million in cash flow benefit in the 2011-12 financial year. I must also address the member for Dunkley's discussion about the entrepreneurs tax offset. The member for Dunkley is crying crocodile tears, I am afraid to report to the House, because while he quite rightly identifies that we have scrapped the entrepreneurs tax offset, which is worth $365 million over the forwards—schedule 1—we have in fact provided $2.6 billion in additional tax assistance and write-offs for small business. It does not take a Rhodes scholar to work out that when you are giving $2.6 billion to small business and you deduct the cost of the entrepreneurs tax offset of $365 million, you are still $2.3-plus billion ahead of the game.

There is another benefit in the Clean Energy Future package. We have not added any red tape to the lives of small business with that. On motor vehicles we are proposing a $5,000 instant asset write-off per vehicle. If you are a tradesperson and you buy a $33,000-plus ute you will be able to get back $1,275 in tax from that purchase. That is real money; that will assist with three weeks of shopping for a family of four. Real money.

What I do not understand is why the opposition wants to give money back to the very richest companies in Australia and not give a fair share to the whole Australian economy? Small businesses pay their taxes. They have helped pay for the roads, the education and the health care of the people of Australia, why shouldn't they and all Australians get a dividend from the richest companies making superprofits? I know that some opposite shake their heads: how can one be mean to their large, vested-interest allies? It is not us. We just want a fair share for all Australians of the mining boom.

It is very clear that we are pro-business. We are improving and reforming the future of financial advice,. We have been assisting small business with our reforms to flood insurance, for instance. We are continuing to see how we can work with the retail industry to help it through very difficult times. There are very many areas we are working at. I understand the opposition's role is to be negative and say no, and even the normally avuncular member for Dunkley seems to have been infected with a little bit of the contagion of his boss's negativity.

Let us go to one of the most significant things that happened last night. We passed a bill in the House of Representatives which will increase compulsory superannuation over the next seven years from nine to 12 per cent. That is a matter of history. People in 10 or 20 years will say, 'Wasn't it far-sighted of a government to get on with increasing the compulsory savings of Australia?' I know that people do not mind, because those opposite get 15 per cent super or defined benefit plans, so they are very happy to take super and their boss, the people who pay them, are the taxpayers of Australia. They do not refund their super. They are happy to pocket it. Always back the horse called self-interest when it comes to the opposition. That is fair enough; it is a legitimate condition, and I support the condition.

Mr Billson interjecting

I hear the member for Dunkley; he is obviously busily trying to remake his case. I can hear he has some concerns now through his interjections. But the reason why we are increasing super from nine to 12 per cent is that there are no free lunches when it comes to growing older.

It is a great thing that Australians are growing older—it certainly beats the alternative—but, having said that, we have to pay the bills. We can pay through the aged-care pension and lift taxes for that, but the pack of negative Twilight Zone dwellers opposite would say they do not want to do that. So how will we afford our retirement? It is okay for some of the lads and ladies opposite in the lap of luxury. They have their defined benefits, but how will the other Australians afford their retirement? It is true: do not take a condition which you are not willing to give to other people.

When we look at what the government has done with the mining tax, we have ensured that, if we are increasing super from nine to 12 per cent, the concessional tax benefit afforded to Australians as a result of the income which would previously have been taxed at a higher marginal rate is now taxed at only 15 per cent. That is what happens when you increase the amount of income which is concessionally taxed as opposed to taxing it at the marginal rates of taxation. That has to be paid for by someone.

What is interesting is that the opposition have had more positions on superannuation than are in the Kama Sutra. Initially, in 1995, the member for Warringah and current Leader of the Opposition said superannuation was a con job. More recently, the shadow Treasurer said, 'No way are we going to keep any of the things which the mining tax money is being spent on, because we are going to give the mining tax back to the big end of town.' If that is your value base, fair enough—it is an honestly held position to give it back to the richest. Their shadow Assistant Treasurer, a person who I think is of some capacity, then said at a lunch for business leaders: 'We're going to wind back the 12 per cent to nine per cent. If those scurrilous socialists across the aisle'—I do not think he said 'scurrilous socialists', although he might have thought it, but I am not a mind-reader. At the end of October or the beginning of November, he said: 'We will put our hand in the retirement savings pocket of every Australian and we will reduce super from 12 per cent to nine per cent.'

Even some supporters of the Liberal party were sufficiently aghast at the Twilight Zone analysis that the Sydney Morning Herald broke the story about what he had said. Then again there were those famous red lights which go off when an opposition coalition frontbencher says something random, planned and unsupported, and there was a meeting of the leadership of the coalition. When I say 'a meeting of the leadership', that was minus Andrew Robb, the shadow finance minister, as people could not find his phone number. The opposition said: 'We don't like nine to 12 per cent, but if it gets up we're going to keep it.'

Last Friday the Leader of the Opposition, to ingratiate himself with a group of people in the financial services sector, said, 'We're going to abstain on the vote; we're not even going to vote against it.' And we know what happened last night. They got their latest position out of the manual of backflips and they said, 'We're going to vote against it.' Last night they not only voted against increasing compulsory super from nine to 12 per cent; they actually voted against abolishing age discrimination. They voted against the idea that people over 70—

Mr Ian Macfarlane interjecting

Look at it: the honourable member said we stole their idea. Not only did we not steal it but, if you have such a good idea, why is it that you have a good idea until it comes to voting on it and then you drop it? What do you stand for? You cannot be half-pregnant in this life. You either believe something or you do not. They voted against abolishing discrimination against people over the age of 70. This government had said: if you are over 70 and working, we want you to get super. I think that is a good idea. Certainly 53,000 people currently working will not be unhappy with that. We proposed that 8.4 million people should have their superannuation increased through modest increments over the next seven years to 12 per cent.

We also have proposed and voted up in the House of Reps—when I say 'we', I mean the majority of people in parliament and not the coalition, because they are always last to anything—that Australians who earn less than $37,000 a year, of whom we estimate that there are 3.6 million, will no longer have to pay 15 per cent tax on superannuation. Unlike people who earn more than $37,000 a year, their actual rate of taxation is either 15 per cent or zero. That will mean that quite a sizeable number of low-income Australians, people who work hard to earn their income but get a low income, are paying the same rate of tax on their super as they pay on the income they earn. One of the important features of superannuation in Australia is that if it is going to be compulsory it should be concessional. We propose that for 3.6 million Australians it should be compulsory, but we respect that it should be concessional. We are abolishing the tax they pay.

The opposition voted against it—mind you, half of them were asleep, although not everyone, but they were more nodding than awake. I accept that some of them might not have realised what they were doing, but there is a question for the opposition leader to answer. I know he does not like doing the tough interviews on television and the big press conferences where the gallery might ask him hard questions, but there is a rule ultimately in politics as there is in life: you can run but you cannot hide. In the court of national opinion you need to make it very clear, Mr Abbott: do you support 3.6 million—

Photo of Ian MacfarlaneIan Macfarlane (Groom, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask the Assistant Treasurer to address members by their proper titles.

Photo of Peter SlipperPeter Slipper (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Groom is perfectly correct and the Assistant Treasurer will observe the standing orders.

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I ask the member for Warringah, the current holder of the Leader of the Opposition job, this: the government has supported legislation in the House of Representatives which will abolish the concessional tax paid by 3.6 million Australians who earn less than $37,000 a year, so will the Leader of the Opposition—not that he ever hangs around—do the same thing? That promise is worth $1.8 billion over the forwards. Therefore the opposition have two choices: (1) they can say they do not like the mining tax—and they have said that, but they will keep this promise and they will find the money elsewhere; (2) they can say they are not going to keep this promise. They would then reimpose a tax on 3.6 million Australians who currently, under our proposal, will no longer have to pay concessional tax on their superannuation.

As they say on the game show, it is deal or no deal, member for Warringah and Leader of the Opposition. You can run but you cannot hide. We want to support small business and we want to support all Australians by sharing a fair share of the mining superprofits of the largest companies in Australia using non-renewable resources throughout Australia. Will you give the lowest paid Australians the tax cut in superannuation as this government is doing, or will you refuse to do it and demand that the money come back and instead give it to a few of the richest companies in the world? It would be better if it clarified your position today. (Time expired)

3:37 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to speak on this most relevant and timely matter of public importance and support the comments from my good friend the member for Dunkley, who exposed the deception and fraud of this government and how it has misled small business again and again and again.

Photo of Peter SlipperPeter Slipper (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The honourable member will withdraw the word 'fraud'.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw that word. The impact of Labor's increased taxes on small business is a testimony to this government's anti-small-business agenda and this regime's four-year shameful history of waste, incompetence and deception. When we go back to 2007, when Labor first came to power, they offered so many promises about assisting small business. But, four years later, let us have a look at the results of their unprecedented attack on the small business sector.

Under this Labor regime, 300,000 small business jobs have been lost and Labor's policies have also resulted in more than 20,000 fewer small businesses now contributing to our economy. Twenty thousand have disappeared. What an appalling and shameful record! As for this government, this Prime Minister and this Treasurer, the only successful policy they seem to have in the small business sector is making small business smaller. What an absolute disgrace! Yesterday we had the Prime Minister and this government pretending to be friends of small business. What a sham! We even had the Treasurer quoting Menzies, reminding the House that it is the Liberal Party that is the party that stands for the strivers, the planners and the ambitious small businesses. Yesterday, we had more quotes of Menzies from the Treasurer—and I just hope he will do more of these, because he would do well to learn from one of the greatest leaders in our country's history. I wonder what quotes a future Treasurer might recall of this Prime Minister 40 years from now. Perhaps it will be, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government that I lead', or maybe even better, 'The Labor Party is the party of truth-telling.' They will be the butt of jokes.

This government, a government where small business does not even have a voice at the cabinet table, will long be remembered for their policies, which have already destroyed 300,000 small business jobs and destroyed the hopes and dreams of over 20,000 small businesses. But, while this is their shameful record to date, what is the rest of the small business community experiencing currently—the ones that have survived? Just have a look at the most recent Sensis small business survey. It shows the profitability of the small business sector has hit an incredible 18-year low—that's right, an 18-year low. And the report records that small business confidence has collapsed to just 15 per cent, one of the worst results in the report's history. Growth in small business capital expenditure has fallen again sharply, to the lowest levels ever recorded by the index, and the proportion of small businesses exporting has also fallen. And there has been an almost 50 per cent increase in the numbers of small business owners that intend to either sell or close their business. They have seen the writing on the wall under this government. They simply want to get out while they can with a shirt on their back.

We also have the latest ACCI small business survey, which has found that small business trading conditions and confidence have continued to collapse under this government and their policies with all indicators—including expected economic performance, sales revenue, employment and investment in plant and equipment—in substantial decline for the small business.

These are the sobering facts, and this is exactly the feedback that I am getting from 11,258 small businesses located in my electorate of Hughes, 97 per cent of which are truly small, family-owned businesses. The many small businesses I talk to are telling me that business conditions under this Labor government are the worst in living memory. That is the shameful record of this government to date. But the future only gets worse.

Back in 2007, the so-called 'party of truth-telling' promised that a Labor government would ease the regulatory burden on small business, and the member for Griffith stated that this was 'eating away at the entrepreneurial spirit' of the nation. But what is the record four years later? After piling new tax upon new tax and new regulation upon new regulation, a recent World Bank analysis of small business regulation has shown that Australia has gone backwards on almost every measure, with the exception of one category, the category of dealing with construction permits. We are now ranked a lowly 42nd. Who is above us? We are actually one place behind Greece, which came in 41st.

Then we have small business carrying the burden of this government's reckless spending and putting upward pressure on interest rates. We have had the Treasurer farcically standing on the floor of this parliament talking about 'fiscal discipline'. This is the same Treasurer that has turned a $40 billion net surplus into a $100 billion-plus net deficit, which is only putting upward pressure on interest rates. It is the small business sector that carries the burden more than any other sector because of these increased interest rates. It has now been weeks since the Reserve Bank dropped interest rates by 0.25 per cent, but many small businesses out there today are still waiting for that cut to be passed on to them. That is where small business stands today under this Labor government.

And what of the future? Until the rotting carcass of this deceptive, dysfunctional and directionless government is finally dispatched to the annals of history by the voters, small business will continue to suffer. This shameful track record that I have noted comes even before small business is smashed by the insanity of the world's biggest carbon tax, a tax that the Prime Minister and Treasurer of this country promised solemnly they would not introduce. This tax is built on deception upon deception. Not being satisfied with the deception of the Prime Minister telling small business that there would be no tax under the government that she leads, the deception has continued with the latest falsehood from the government with their claim that 'small business will not be required to pay a carbon price'. But this Labor-Greens carbon tax will simply cascade through the supply chain, compounding at each stage and leaving Australia's two million small businesses and family enterprises to foot the bill with higher costs. Many small businesses already suffering the worst trading conditions in living memory have little capacity to absorb these increases. They will be caught in a vice, squeezed between spiralling costs on one hand and caught with their customers having less money in their pockets to spend on the other, all the while dark economic clouds gathering on the international horizon. This is a recipe for disaster.

Then we have the government's plan to use the ACCC storm-troopers to silence small business by threatening to go after any small business that dares inform consumers about price increases due to the carbon tax. The threat of using the ACCC as an attack dog to prosecute small business owners who dare talk about the carbon tax is a disgrace. Small businesses face increases in electricity and will be forced to put many prices up where they can, yet they have a government that has misled them about this tax, has misled them about the effects of this tax and that is now threatening to prosecute small businesses for misleading and deceptive conduct if they merely talk about the tax.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you would think that the party that claims to be the party of truth telling would be telling the whole truth because silence by leaving out a material fact to create a false impression is nothing other than a deception. What we saw yesterday and last night during the debate on the mining tax was nothing other than a deception and a falsehood.

Photo of Peter SlipperPeter Slipper (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Hughes will not use the word 'deception'. He should withdraw that word.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. Buried in the mining tax was the Labor government's plans to increase taxes by 25 per cent for the 400,000 smallest businesses by removing the entrepreneurial tax offset. Not one single speaker from the government side even bothered to mention the fact that these bills contain a plan to rip $180 million off our most vulnerable small businesses. Either they did not read the legislation or they were deliberately deceptive.

Small businesses are in a perilous state in our nation. They are faced with a carbon tax. They are faced with the impost of the mining tax. We need clear policy from this government. Small businesses are suffering more than they ever have. They are facing high interest rates. We need a change of government. We need a change of policy. (Time expired)

3:47 pm

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I love hearing conservatives parade their friendship of small business. I love how they pretend that they are such great friends of small business. It always reminds me of that great quote from George W Bush when he lambasted the French for not having a word for 'entrepreneur'. They always make out they are the best mate of small business, but whenever they are called upon to make a decision in favour of small business, to do something when they are positioned between big business and small business, guess where they go—always for the big interest, never for the small.

Let us go through a litany of key decisions where the opposition when in government was asked to support small business but was nowhere to be seen—MIA. When the GST came in, these people who lecture us about cutting red tape, cutting bureaucracy, consigned all these small businesses to business activity statements—the thing that drives small business nuts. Small businesses still complain about it when I talk with them in the electorate of Chifley.

The member for Hughes went on with his celebrated term 'ACCC storm-troopers'. He talked about how the ACCC was being given powers to clamp down on prices and gouging that might occur with the introduction of the carbon price. Guess what! Just take the time to review recent history. Go and look at the new tax system and see what happened at the time the GST was introduced. The ACCC was given powers to clamp down on businesses that were attempting to rip off the public and to ensure that the GST was passed through fairly. Your side of politics started it, my friend. Your side of politics did it. It was the right thing to do then just as it is the right thing to do now.

Peter Costello, the former member for Higgins, was given recommendation after recommendation on what he should do to improve the Trade Practices Act, on what should be done to protect small business from things like predatory pricing and things like creeping acquisition.

Mr Craig Kelly interjecting

Photo of Peter SlipperPeter Slipper (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The honourable member for Hughes has had an opportunity to contribute. He will be somewhat more restrained.

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The former Treasurer was given heaps of opportunity to stand up for small business that was being squeezed by creeping acquisition. It was being squeezed by big businesses pricing deliberately in a way to squeeze out small business. Did you ever stand up for small businesses and make TPA reform a priority? No, it took this government to do it. I am proud that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer was heavily involved in the formation of the Australian consumer law, the successor law to the TPA. I am proud of the fact that this government has been involved in championing small business in this way.

The member for Dunkley reached into the MPI vending machine and it was his turn today to get an MPI and talk about small business. The parliamentary secretary and I had to listen to him going on about IP Australia, about patents and about businesses being squeezed by multinationals on patents. Again, this matter has been hanging around for years. Those opposite had a chance to strengthen this and to give teeth to IP Australia. Did they do anything? No, not a zip. In the last month or so we have had the changes to the business names registration act, a great move to ensure that wherever you set up a small business in this country you do not have to wade through paperwork that might be different from state to state, with registration fees that might differ from state to state. We gave strength to the process by including ASIC as the watchdog. We have done all that. It is cooperative federalism at work, and we did it. They never did, but we did—it was done in the last month. And last night we introduced a massive shot in the arm for small business: a $6,500 instant asset tax write-off. That was delivered by a Labor government. It was never, ever given by them and was voted against by them.

They are chopping and changing on policy, one minute saying that they will oppose, for example, the superannuation changes that we have put in, then in the next minute supporting them, and then last night opposing them again. How can small business have any confidence in the member for Dunkley? The member for Dunkley was going around telling us that the world would end because of these changes to superannuation and saying that small business would suffer. Then all of a sudden, without any consultation, the Leader of the Opposition supports the changes to superannuation. What a voice for small business in the frontbench of the opposition when he cannot win on it.

Photo of David BradburyDavid Bradbury (Lindsay, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

He wasn't on the phone call either.

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, he wasn't on the phone call; thank you to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer for pointing that out. Again, what a great friend to small business, not even listened to by the Leader of the Opposition, and then they jump and dart round saying what they will do for small business.

They are talking down the super reform. We are creating a pool of funds in the national interest: $500 billion of investment funds that will help the economy, help us grow and help business. We have done that. Superannuation is the big reform to help the economy, but it is opposed by them. Yet again, it is Labor having to step up and provide that.

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You're the government!

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Absolutely we are the government, and we use our time well in helping small business. You talk, we act. We make the decisions. We act. We help out. You sit and oppose. This is an opposition that does not know what it is going to do. For example, when we were putting through the reforms on climate change, and they had a chance to support us on the Steel Transformation Plan Bill, they said, 'We're not going to support that bill because we don't support anything in what the government is doing on climate change.' They then said, 'We don't support the mining tax,' but they managed to find support for superannuation. They leave steelworkers and the steel sector hanging , but when for their own interest they have to support something they are out there doing it. No consistency, no idea, no policy, an absolute sham—they are unable on the big issues that confront this country to get their act together to work out how they are voting. And they are led by a man who did his best Captain Snooze impersonation last night: there on the front bench asleep when the big decisions are being made.

Government members interjecting

That is right. He is either asleep in here or he is sleeping off a bender from being in the members dining room while we are deciding what to do to save the nation as a result of the global financial crisis. We are doing a great job, because he will trawl around every place he can—

Opposition members interjecting

You don't like it, do you? You can't sit there in silence. Listen, the heat's going to get up a little bit more! What I love is they will go anywhere here and sap confidence out of the local economy by telling everyone how bad things, then the minute that the Leader of the Opposition can get himself on a plane overseas, where no-one is watching, he tells the rest of the world how great Australia is.

Ms Rowland interjecting

Exactly, he will not tell everyone how well we are doing here, but he will do it over there. When it comes to the big decisions to be made, we make them and then he goes and claims credit. He does not stand up for the decisions here. He does not do the right things.

Photo of Michelle RowlandMichelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Captain Snooze!

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Captain Snooze will go home to the motherland and tell them how great we are. It is an embarrassment, and do you know what? You can just tell the tide is rising.

Photo of Michelle RowlandMichelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Higgins is onto it!

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Wow, the member for Higgins! I will give her credit. The member for Higgins is able to do something that their frontbench cannot. The member for Goldstein cannot when he has been overruled on key issues, and he is the shadow finance minister. He cannot do it, but the member for Higgins—wow! She is making it happen. They know they are in trouble. They do not have the ticker. They do not have the brains. They do not have the wherewithal. (Time expired)

Photo of Peter SlipperPeter Slipper (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call the honourable member for Flynn, I remind members on both sides of the chamber that it is extremely disorderly to be interjecting from outside one's seat.

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Shame on you!

Photo of Peter SlipperPeter Slipper (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I do not need any assistance from the member for Riverina. My observation was that there were guilty parties on both sides of the chamber, including the honourable member for Herbert—he was an offender.

Photo of Ewen JonesEwen Jones (Herbert, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm here to help!

Photo of Peter SlipperPeter Slipper (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The honourable member for Flynn has the call.

3:58 pm

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to talk about the difficulties facing small business in this world of increasing taxes that we live in today and to support the members for Dunkley and Hughes. Business is drowning in taxes and bureaucratic red tape. Small businesses have to contend with a lot of issues, but taxes are the forefront in terms of their survival. I refer to federal, state and local taxes. They all add to the bottom line, or detract from it, whatever the case may be, and in the last few years they have been detracting from the bottom line. Small businesses have to contend with corporate tax, land taxes, removal of the ETO, carbon cops and the ACCC, workers compensation, vehicle registration increases, workplace health and safety costs, rates, water and electricity and gas charges, insurance, payroll tax and any of the fees imposed by the federal and state governments, when they should be concentrating on market pressures, which is what being in business is all about. The types of businesses that will be slugged by a carbon tax are huge, especially in country areas. Labour costs are increasing, and small business is crying out under the weight of these taxes.

Let us go back to the start and talk about corporate tax. Not all small businesses are companies. Only one-third of businesses work under a company structure. Two-thirds work as mums and dads under their own trading name and that is about it, so they will not get a tax deduction from 30 per cent to 29 per cent. With the businesses that do work under a company structure, if they have $100,000 net profit they will save $1,000. What a deal! That will soon be swallowed up in other charges, I can tell you that.

Land tax is another issue. If you have a piece of land and the government decides to buy, rebuild or sell land adjoining your property and puts a lot of costs into that property, suddenly the value of your land goes up alongside your neighbour's land and you do not make an extra dollar but you pay land tax. This is an injustice. The removal of the enterprise tax offset has been spoken about by the members for Dunkley and Hughes, but it is a fact that this government will reap $180 million from small business.

An opposition member: That's a shame.

That is a shame. We do not know how this carbon cop in the ACCC is going to work; but, if they are going to impose legislation where a small business cannot put their prices above one per cent, what are we doing to small business? Do we want them to survive or do we not? I would like the government to explain how that is going to work and what power these carbon cops are going to have. As we stand now, union officials, workplace health and safety, carbon cops and every other cop can just walk into your business and walk straight over the top of you even though you own your own business. You do not own your own business. You have no control over who comes into your—

An opposition member: Red tape.

Yes. Workers compensation is always on the increase. I can tell you something about workers compensation. It is normally about three or four per cent; but, if you have an accident on your site, they will retrieve whatever money they spent paying the employee until you come back to that three or four per cent. But they do not give you a credit if you do not have an accident. I have been in business for 30 years. I have had one accident—and I am still paying dearly for that—but there is no credit for the other 29 years that never had an accident.

Vehicle registration is another sad story for all small business, especially truck owners. Take a B-double cattle transporting vehicle. These are real stories I tell here today. This happened at a place called Rolleston in my electorate. The whole town was flooded. They had water on the four roads going into Rolleston. He could not move his truck on the main roads for six months. He could not move his truck on the internal roads in the properties for nine months. But his registration for that vehicle was $26,000. He did not make one cent for nine months. This is what small business has to put up with.

The people in my electorate, where roads are very ordinary to say the least, have to pay a luxury tax on vehicles that are over about $69,000. They need a vehicle worth probably $80,000—for example, a Toyota LandCruiser—to get around these roads because a lesser vehicle will just fall to pieces, and yet they are hit with a luxury tax. This is not right.

Workplace health and safety have costs. This issue hits at the heart of small business. We tend to have to follow big business. As we go on, big business in the mines and in other areas of big industry around my area have a driver and a passenger in a ute. This is because, when that ute stops, they do not rely on the handbrake anymore. One person has to get out and chock the wheels. This is what is going on. This falls into a category that rubs off on small business. I witnessed myself at a hotel in Emerald that was on perfectly flat ground a car where all four wheels were chocked. So much for our handbrake system!

Rates are continuing to rise. There are not many council rates that go under CPI. Most of them are over CPI. This again reflects on the bottom line. We do not have to talk too much about water charges, electricity, gas, insurance—we know they go up every year. You can count on it. Payroll tax is a great incentive for business: if you go over a certain figure, you have to pay payroll tax. Superannuation of nine to 12 per cent comes directly out of the bottom line.

I think the Assistant Treasurer should concentrate more on a proper return from our superannuation funds. We all know that superannuation funds over the last 10 years have returned less than five per cent. For the last three years it has probably been a minus figure.

An opposition member: You get more in a bank account—or at the racecourse!

You do get more in a bank account and at the racecourse. Fees imposed by the federal government add to inflation. It is not small businesses putting their prices up; it is the government charges that create inflation, which then adds to the cost of the article and a lower bottom line for small business. I was in the hotel game. Since getting out of the hotel game hotels have been hit with a fee of around $15,000 in Queensland for no reason. A small hotel in a place like Walloon pays $15,000. So does the Hilton in Brisbane. How can that be?

Photo of Ewen JonesEwen Jones (Herbert, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The state government needs the money—that's the reason.

Photo of Peter SlipperPeter Slipper (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Herbert does not appear to be in his seat.

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

And there is the red tape—you have to supply statistical information to governments and, if you do not fill out the statistics when they want you to, they will ring you up and do you over.

Photo of Warren TrussWarren Truss (Wide Bay, National Party, Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

Be unkind.

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, very unkind. We have to return respectability and cut out the red tape for small business. If we want them to survive we have to set the right parameters and then let them get on with doing the business they do best. If someone wants to do the paperwork and deal with the red tape, let the bureaucrats do it.

4:08 pm

Photo of Geoff LyonsGeoff Lyons (Bass, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today in the House to speak to the motion on the impact of increased taxes on small business. The Gillard Labor government understands the important contribution small businesses make to national prosperity and to supporting jobs. Small business owners take a risk in undertaking new ventures on their own. They work hard to achieve commercial success and deserve support for their entrepreneurship, which contributes so much to the economy and provides so many jobs for Australians. Federal Labor is committed to supporting Australia's small businesses as the global economy recovers so that they can grow to their full potential and continue their immense contribution to Australian prosperity and job creation.

Last night was a big moment in Australian history. The MRRT is a great big win for small business. The government will support Australian jobs and use the mining tax to give a tax cut to every Australian small business. This will help keep unemployment low and ensure more Australians are coming home with a pay cheque every week. I am sure this move will be welcomed by the business community and by those looking for work. I look forward to talking to local businesses in my electorate about this. This builds on the Gillard Labor government's record of creating 750,000 new jobs, low unemployment, and sound financial management.

Our tax package, funded by the proceeds of the MRRT, will give small businesses tax relief, a cash-flow boost and a strong incentive to invest in productive assets and grow jobs. From 1 July next year, small businesses will be able to claim an instant write-off of assets valued up to $6,500, boosting cash flow and removing the need to apply different depreciation schedules. The instant asset write-off is not a cap; it applies to each asset a business buys that is under $6,500.

As a big supporter of small business, I welcome the Gillard Labor government's plan to offer a big tax cut to every small business. We are giving a big tax cut to 2.7 million small businesses—many of them struggling in our patchwork economy. The government recognises the important contribution small businesses make to national prosperity and to creating jobs—and these tax cuts will help them continue to grow and prosper.

Yet those on the other side of the chamber last night voted to rip out major tax relief for 2.7 million Australian small businesses. Mining profits have increased more than 260 per cent over the past decade. BHP's latest annual profit of around $23 billion is almost four times the profit of the country's former highest earners, the banks. We are giving a business tax cut to all Australian businesses, including those that are not in the mining boom fast lane. That will help keep unemployment low, which means more Australians coming home with a pay cheque to look after their families. Every cent raised through the MRRT will be returned to business and the community through tax cuts. This is an important point that often has been lost in the heat of this debate. This is an unprecedented support package proposed by the Labor government that, if the opposition really cared about small business, they would have supported last night instead of sleeping through the whole debate.

This package comes on top of the government's other measure to allow small businesses to write off the first $5,000 on any new motor vehicle purchased from 1 July next year. This landmark tax break will have a significant impact on the cash flow of many thousands of small businesses. It will help many of them to invest in new equipment, which will help improve productivity and provide a boost to the national economy. The new arrangements will also reduce red tape for small businesses, as they will not have to deal with as many depreciation schedules or track the depreciation on so many assets.

Small businesses are the backbone of the Australian economy, providing jobs and adding to our national prosperity. Federal Labor has implemented a number of policies to help Australia's small businesses prosper. We invested $42 million in small business advice and support through small business advisory services located in suburban, rural and regional Australia. We simplified the BAS, business activity statement, and other reporting requirements for small business by implementing standard business reporting for around 70 per cent of small businesses. We created a superannuation clearing house so small businesses can pay their employees' superannuation contributions electronically to Medicare, which distributes the money to employees' chosen super funds free of charge. We helped small businesses go online by providing $14 million to 47 successful applicants to improve their e-commerce capabilities, enabling them to take up the new opportunities offered by the National Broadband Network. We established a permanent voice for small business in the ACCC, through the appointment of a new Small Business Commissioner. The Australian economy continues to outperform other advanced economies. Despite the impact of natural disasters, our economic fundamentals remain strong and our outlook is bright. The government has a clear plan to maximise the opportunities of an economy in transition.

Small businesses make a significant contribution to the Australian economy, accounting for almost half of industry employment and contributing over a third of industry value in 2009-10. We are working with them to support jobs. Small businesses are often the first to feel the effects of an economic downturn and the last to emerge. Federal Labor recognised that helping small business through the global recession was critical to the economy.

An important measure was support for local tradies and the small businesses that supply them, through the Gillard Labor government's Nation Building-Economic Stimulus Plan, for work on schools, housing, roads and local infrastructure projects. Yet those opposite turn up to the openings but vote against these jobs. They did not support business when they really needed it.

The marginal rate of tax was 67c when I started work and it is now 45c. The fact is: no-one likes paying tax, but we need revenue for services. The Liberals, when they were in power, were the highest-taxing government in Australia's history.

We are working hard on freeing up small business owners' time to allow them to get on with the job and making it easier to deal with government. With 2.4 million small businesses operating in Australia, the Gillard Labor government recognises that small business is the backbone of the Australian economy.

Federal Labor will continue to support small business owners to ensure their entrepreneurship continues to contribute to national prosperity and job creation. That is why we have released a tax plan for our future, which will provide tax breaks and reduce red tape for all small businesses. The MRRT is a great opportunity for this country, and those opposite are on the wrong side of history.

Labor is keeping the economy strong and building a great economic future for all Australians. Only Labor has a plan to keep the whole economy strong—not just the mining sector—a modern economy ready for the future that will create new jobs and new opportunities with no person and no place left behind.

4:17 pm

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Like most members on this side of the House, I understand the value of small business. Ninety-seven per cent of the businesses in my electorate of Fowler qualify as small businesses—that is, 10,500 businesses. In the past a lot of these people would have been bricklayers, electricians—a whole host of things. They are required to register their business in order to maintain their employment but, nevertheless, small business and independent contractors are one of the fastest areas of growth, particularly in south-west Sydney where I come from.

One and a half thousand of these small businesses are truck drivers. They are independent contractors, owner drivers. They have set up their businesses. They have gone out like other businesspeople and borrowed capital to set up a business. I do not know if it has caught you by surprise, Mr Deputy Speaker Slipper, but it has taken a long drawn-out campaign by the Transport Workers Union and other people such as Lindsay Fox to draw attention to this particular category of small business.

I, together with other members in this place, sometimes go and visit the various truck stops we have in our electorates. I have got one down the road called Uncle Leo's. I go in there and have a cup of coffee and a sandwich with the fellas as they are negotiating a truckload of fuel to get themselves home to Queensland. They will go home to Queensland with a truckload of fuel. They are compromising everything: time and themselves with regard to their logbooks and other things. They are trying to make a quid out of their business. That is why people enter into businesses in the first place.

To date we have seen people's reluctance to grasp the significance of fair rates in the transport industry. These fair rates are not meant to apply to someone who is a day worker working for a trucking organisation; these are for the operators of small businesses.

This significant initiative was introduced by the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport today in the second reading of the road safety bill. It is designed to give these people a fighting chance at their business, to make sure they are paid fair rates. Compromise is occurring, which is affecting safety. About 250 deaths occur on the road each year involving heavy vehicles. An accident involving a heavy vehicle normally would have very significant consequences for not simply the drivers of those vehicles but also other road users.

Compromises are being made—compromises in respect of safety; compromises in respect of work practices; and compromises in respect to hours—and I have personally witnessed people negotiating a truckload of fuel to travel from Liverpool back to the Gold Coast, and that would be the cost of freight. If you want to divide up what the cost of freight is, I think it would be pretty cheap by the end of that run.

The other major thing that these truck drivers running their businesses complain bitterly to me about—I know they are not in the aviation industry—is the slot times they are given for arriving to unload their vehicles, and that time can change. They can sit around for anything up to 10 or 14 hours waiting for their slot time, so they become a mobile storage unit. They are out there with their 16-wheelers, with their refrigerated units keeping food cold, and all the rest of it, and they are not getting paid for that. They are given their slot time to arrive. If anything, we are taking an enormous step just in that alone in respect to small business.

I know that is not the tenor of this debate, which is focusing on what is occurring in the mining industry. Although I have a connection with mining, I am at a loss over this, as are most people in my electorate who do not have any connections with mining. I have had sons do very well out of working in the mining industry. A lot of young people have seen mining as not a bad way of life: getting involved, generating a lot of income over a short time and then going into another business. That is what my son did.

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

They can pay more tax.

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What has occurred—the member for Dickson probably agrees with this because I know his electorate well—is we have negotiated with the biggest miners in the country. They have agreed on what the figure should be. They have agreed that they need to make a greater contribution to this country. We are talking about companies that make an after-tax profit of $75 million. We are not talking about someone who has the backside falling out of their pants, struggling to get down their shovel blade down a hole to dig a little deeper. We are talking to people who are making a $75 million after-tax profit. They are the ones who are going to be required to pay. That money will give us the ability to make adjustments to help small business.

I said that 95 per cent of businesses in my electorate are small businesses. Those people can buy a vehicle, whether it is a Commodore or Ford or some other type of vehicle, and apply to have the instant asset write-off of $6,000. We have to contrast that with what the opposition did in government. They had 12 years to look at this.

I was in small business when John Howard promised to cut small business red tape by 50 per cent in the first term of his government. Instead, what did the coalition do? They saddled businesses—

Ms Brodtmann interjecting

particularly small businesses—you are right, the member for Canberra—with GST. They certainly saddled it with a greater amount of red tape. I know the amount of work I had to do to find my way through a complex BAS. That is what they delivered to small business. They made it infinitely more difficult for small business to operate in that environment. It took Labor to make and deliver on commitments to small business. As I said at the outset, we know that the fastest growing area in our economy is small business and much of that is independent contractors. They are electricians, plumbers and bricklayers who now require an ABN to get onto various job sites—particularly in Sydney. They had to have an ABN, they had to become a small business, and that is how they got treated. Anyway, these businesses got on and I know many of them have employed apprentices locally. These businesses now have the opportunity to go out there and get that ute. They now have the opportunity to start to expand their business.

The mining tax is going to help facilitate the rise of superannuation from nine per cent to 12 per cent. That is a great dream for anybody in the workforce. I know that not many of those opposite necessarily reflect people in the workforce but we here do. We understand what it is for working people to have a sound retirement income at the end of their working lives. Moving superannuation to 12 per cent is a true Labor objective, one that we should be proud of delivering. But it does not just come, we have to make things work.

I understand it is difficult for those opposite. I understand that even as late as yesterday they were conflicted on this as part of their party room was going to support the superannuation rise. All except Andrew Robb, at least, were going to support this. They said they were going to support superannuation but they were going to oppose the mining tax. But when the legislation came here last night, I thought at best they would abstain from voting. They could not work it out. We had the Leader of the Opposition sleeping in the front row, being nudged in the ribs. We had the shadow Treasurer sitting at the table, not sure what call make. Then we had the member for Mackellar call for a division and they all voted no to superannuation. I do not know how they are going to explain that in their next round of newsletters. They opposed working Australians getting a genuine Labor objective of an adjustment to 12 per cent superannuation. (Time expired)

4:27 pm

Photo of Teresa GambaroTeresa Gambaro (Brisbane, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship and Settlement) Share this | | Hansard source

How refreshing. We have one member over there, the member for Fowler, who is an ex-businessperson. It is very refreshing to see. I wish more of his colleagues understood small business.

Government Members:

Government members interjecting

Photo of Teresa GambaroTeresa Gambaro (Brisbane, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship and Settlement) Share this | | Hansard source

No, they have two. We can count with our hands how many former small business people are on the opposite side, whereas over here we really understand what small business is about. If you have ever run a small business, which I have done in my career, you will know the government has created three taxes and increased many others. What have they done in the last few months? They have brought in a flood tax, a flood levy which will affect businesses, they have brought in a carbon tax and they have brought in a mining resource rent tax. When they are in trouble, the first thing they do is tax small business. They have their heart on their sleeve about how they are for small business and how they care about small business, but all they do is tax them to death.

Let us talk about some of these particular taxes. I am glad that the member for Fowler talked earlier about when the GST came in. One of the things that the then government did with that tax was to consult widely. I know because I was sitting on the government side of the House when it happened. We consulted widely. We funded organisations and chambers of commerce to fully inform the business community and to provide them with all the information they possibly could. Anyone running a small business knows that the last thing you do when you are in government is to put another tax on them, particularly in the economic climate that we have at the moment. I was running a retail business up until a year and a half ago, when I came back into the parliament. Can I tell you some of the things that happened in my very humble business. I was a humble fishmonger, running a humble fishmonger's business. Can I tell you what your state colleagues did to my humble business: they put up my electricity by 50 per cent. Electricity went up 50 per cent in one quarter. That is after the land tax went up, and I could go on and on and on.

Government members interjecting

When I stand here and listen to the members opposite, they somehow say—and they are disingenuous in this when they say it—that small businesses do not have to pay for the super; they link it to the mining resource tax. Can I tell you that businesses pay for superannuation. I used to do the wages and I know how that works: businesses pay for superannuation. Let us put that on the table: businesses pay for superannuation. To say that businesses will not have to pay for superannuation is an absolute fallacy. With the company tax rate that is going to be reduced—they played that out—let me just put that on the table as well: most of the businesses in Australia are not incorporated, and they will not even receive the one per cent. All those opposite are doing is taxing business more and more and adding to the difficulty of running a small business.

It is absolutely extraordinary when I listen to the people opposite. They have absolutely no idea of what is involved in running a small business. The members' contributions last night were outstanding to listen to—all this will do is increase and cause an impost to small business. When I listen to some of the members opposite talking about their consultation process, the consultations that have occurred have just been absolutely appalling. They talked to three large miners and did very little about consulting with the other members of the mining sector. They should stand condemned for their lack of consultation.

They have no idea how to run a small business; all they are doing is taxing small business out of existence. It is already a tough time at the moment. Most businesses are doing it tough. I visited a local newsagent in a neighbourhood that I did not think would have difficulty, but they are doing it tough everywhere and they are all complaining about the economic conditions. All those opposite are doing is making it harder and harder for small businesses to survive.

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The discussion is now concluded.