Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy. Minister, how are the government’s economic policies supporting small businesses and tradies? Has the government encountered any impediments to its support for small business?
I thank my good friend and neighbour, the member for Forde, for his continuing interest in small business through the Logan Country Chamber of Commerce and the Logan Chamber of Commerce, which we share, and also the Beenleigh Yatala Chamber of Commerce.
The government’s economic stimulus plan is supporting small businesses and tradies right now right around the nation. They are engaged in no fewer than 34,000 construction projects across Australia—34,000 construction projects supporting our tradies and small businesses. Indeed, 70 per cent of the stimulus spending has been on nation-building infrastructure, including the biggest school modernisation program in Australia’s history. The Australian public think it is great. Wouldn’t you think that the opposition would think that it is really good that we are supporting small businesses and our tradies? But just on the anniversary of the stimulus package being announced in parliament the other day, what did the opposition leader have to say? He said:
It was not the stimulus package or the spending that saved Australia; it was the reforms that saved Australia—reforms that this government cannot contemplate and in fact are winding back.
To what is he referring? Work Choices, of course—the great reform of the Leader of the Opposition and his cohorts on the front bench, who he has promoted to the front bench. ‘Of course,’ he says, ‘only the name Work Choices is dead’—you know, like the parrot: ‘It’s not dead; just pining for the fjords.’ Of course, Work Choices would come back under the Leader of the Opposition if he ever were to become Prime Minister.
He went on to describe the spending on schools that everyone is fond of as ‘very low-grade spending’. Who is engaged in building these infrastructure projects that the opposition leader continues to oppose to this day? Of course, it is our tradies and the small businesses who supply them. The opposition voted against—and to this day continues to oppose—that spending and support for small business. We can conclude from that that the opposition leader, with his extreme views, is a big risk to Australia.
I can illustrate that further because yesterday the opposition leader floated a policy of six months paid parental leave. When looking for the source of funding for this—and I believe he referred to the book on the Alan Jones program this morning—he referred back to his book where he developed this policy and said: ‘It could be funded through a small general levy on business. Small business would instinctively regard any extra cost from the levy as unfair.’ You bet your sweet bippy they would regard it as unfair.
We are talking about sources of funding and integrity. When the shadow finance minister was asked on Lateline just last week how he would fund the coalition’s $10 billion climate change con job, he referred to the tax system and said, ‘That is the whole mechanism of where we get the money from.’ The whole mechanism is the tax system. That would be true to form. Why? Because the coalition holds the record as the biggest taxing government in Australia’s history, as confirmed by the budget papers. Small businesses would be in the firing line from either the levy or the taxes that Sir Barnaby Bjelke-Peterson has described as the source for this extra revenue to fund the parental leave scheme and also—
Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I hate to interrupt this buffoon of a minister but he must withdraw his remarks about Senator Joyce, as you require other ministers to do.
I am happy to withdraw, Mr Speaker. Senator Joyce is sounding more and more like Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson every day but without Sir Joh’s coherence or mathematical prowess. Yesterday’s unfunded six month paid parental scheme is just another example of phony Tony’s funny money scheme.
Opposition members interjecting—
I will, Mr Speaker. Senator Joyce and the opposition leader are a big risk to the Australian economy. I can just envisage the job application of Senator Joyce when he went to the opposition leader and said, ‘I’d really like to be shadow finance minister.’ It would have gone along these lines, ‘You may be right, I might be crazy but it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.’
That is wonderful Italian, Mr Speaker. Under the Rudd government Australians can be optimistic about Australia’s future because we are building a stronger economy for working families and the small businesses of this country.