Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Matters of Public Importance
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.