House debates

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Questions without Notice

Australian Bushfires

2:36 pm

Photo of Mike KellyMike Kelly (Eden-Monaro, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, the Liberal member for Bega, Andrew Constance, reflecting my own experience in the region, has stated:

At the forums I've been at over the past two nights, the plea for help from business is about protecting casual employees and the need for a cash injection now. People are reluctant to take out loans.

On Monday the Prime Minister ridiculed Labor for standing up for businesses that don't want to take on more debt. Does the Prime Minister have the same response to the Liberal member for Bega?

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I can confirm that over 700,000 small businesses in the bushfire affected communities have automatically been provided with deferrals by the ATO. The member for Bega has highlighted the issue of cash flow and the impact on small businesses. Around 90,000 of these small businesses have staff. The ATO has also provided deferrals to 445,000 entities related to these small businesses. These automatic deferrals are in place for another three months, till 28 May. Overall, the ATO is also alleviating cash flow pressures in communities. Overall lodgement and payment deferrals have been granted to 3.9 million taxpayers—that's individuals, businesses and self-managed super funds—putting cash flow back into communities. The ATO has also automatically prioritised refunds for bushfire impacted communities over the past few months. From 15 November to 5 February, the ATO issued over 420,000 refunds, to the value of $3.2 billion, to around 348,000 taxpayers in bushfire affected communities, and the ATO emergency support hotline is available to those outside of the identified impact areas who are seeking assistance with lodgement and payment deferrals.

The member would be aware of the grant program that is available for small businesses, and he would be pleased to know that small businesses are now starting to take up those grants, where they're eligible, through the program being administered by the New South Wales government. But the member opposite seems to be suggesting that a different approach should be taken.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

It's Andrew Constance.

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm responding to the member's question and the suggestion being made that somehow the government should be providing an insurance for income loss across the country in relation to any natural disaster. If that were to be the case, that would be in stark contrast—

Mr Albanese interjecting

If the Leader of the Opposition wants to make a contribution, he can wait till after question time or he can ask a question. I'm trying to address the very serious question of supports for small business, which the member has asked me in good faith. It is not the government's policy to provide cash flow assistance for businesses with income loss that have not had a direct impact from natural disasters. That was the policy followed by the Labor government when they were in power, and it is the policy that we applied to other natural disasters, in particular up in North Queensland, whether in Townsville or across the other areas affected by those floods.

In the areas the member is talking about, there are some 165,082 businesses that have employees. If we were to follow the approach that Labor seem to be suggesting, that alone would be some $8 billion, and if we were to apply it to all businesses it would be $22 billion. The opposition cannot be taken seriously when they're suggesting those sorts of proposals. (Time expired)