House debates

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Adjournment

Small Business

11:26 am

Photo of Jane PrenticeJane Prentice (Ryan, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Small business is the backbone of Australia and the engine room of our economy; indeed, small business is the employer of more than 3.6 million Australians. The small-business sector generates over 30 percent of our nation's economic activity and, with over 1.88 million small businesses operating around the country, represents over 95 per cent of all business in Australia. It therefore concerns me that the Gillard Labor government seemingly takes those in the sector for granted, hitting them with more and more regulation costs and constantly making their lives more difficult. It is fair to say that almost every policy and legislation amendment put forward by the Rudd/Gillard government has seen business owners contact me about how these proposals will negatively affect them.

Never before has it been clearer that the Gillard Labor government is out of touch with small business. This year alone has seen numerous proposals put forward by the government that hurt or hinder small business. It all began with a lack of understanding shown to disaster-affected businesses. A small-business owner in Rosalie was told by an Australian Taxation Office representative that he would have an extension of time to submit his records, only to be slapped with an overdue fee just a week after getting his shop cleaned up—not up and running, mind you, as his computer system suffered extensive damage, additionally limiting his ability to submit the records. There was also zero to little support for businesses who suffered no physical damage but still suffered a severe financial downturn as a result of the flood disaster affecting our local community. This was particularly apparent in parts of my electorate such as Bellbowrie, where many businesses are in a situation where their customer base is heavily reliant on their local community, so when they suffer, small business suffers too.

If the coalition can develop a policy of low-interest consequential loans to lend a hand to these drivers of our economy, I do not see why the economy will not support the coalition's proposals. Perhaps Labor's political ideology gets in the way. The truth is that those opposite are more driven by politics than good outcomes and are quick to write off any initiatives put forward by the coalition that may actually help those who create any sort of wealth in our economy. However, that is the Labor way: label anyone who has an alternative view or a way forward as an extremist or a wrecker. It goes to the heart of why Labor is so out of touch with mainstream Australia.

Small businesses out there are hurting. I recently held a small business forum in Brisbane with my colleagues the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott; the shadow minister for small business, Bruce Billson; and the member for Brisbane, Teresa Gambaro. Let me assure you, there were many examples of situations where the concerns of small businesses have been ignored by the government. The fact is that small businesses feel very let down by the Gillard Labor government. The government's proposals regarding the future of financial advice will simply drive up costs and bureaucracy for boutique financial planners, increasing upfront fees and causing more paperwork but changing little else. While the government may be giving themselves a pat on the back for their innovative reform, the majority of the industry already operates under these rules as standard practice. So the implementation of these so-called reforms will only result in a costly overkill. Once again, the devil is in the detail. Furthermore, under current standard practice, financial planners are required to speak to their clients at least once a year, and the client has the option to opt out of their service at any time. This, combined with the banning of commissions, seemingly counters the government's argument that a two-year opt-in meeting under which the client once again agrees to a fee is a necessary measure. This is particularly relevant, as it is estimated that these meetings could cost up to $100 each time.

With three million Australians receiving financial advice, this unnecessary level of bureaucracy is going to become very costly very quickly. This is hardly an incentive for more Australians to take up professional financial advice—quite the opposite. As AFA Queensland State Director Michael Nowak and the President of the Boutique Financial Planning Principals Group, Claude Santucci, both reiterate, the best defence for Australians to be protected from dodgy financial deals and crooks is to receive personal professional financial advice. But with these reforms making this process more costly for both the individual and small businesses that provide such advice, they are simply another measure dressed up to sell votes without consideration of the negative effects they will have on small business and the economy.

And of course there is the carbon tax. The carbon tax will hurt small business; there is no doubt about it, although so far the sector has been totally ignored in discussions regarding compensation. The additional costs this tax will place on transportation, electricity and refrigeration will hit small businesses hard. With the huge increases in costs of living over the past few years, consumers are already hurting and simply cannot afford further rising prices, so passing on the cost of a carbon tax is hardly an option for small business owners. The reality is that this government has not given any thought as to where the carbon tax leaves small businesses. What options does it leave them with? Reducing opening hours and laying off staff would be my immediate consideration, as a former small-business owner, and these are hardly positive outcomes for a strong economy looking to reduce unemployment.

What is crystal clear yet again is that the Labor Party does not understand small business. Between adding red tape to small businesses as they act as pay clerks for government schemes and forcing young students out of jobs that both they and their employers want and need, as well as the misguided insistence on centralisation— (Time expired)

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