Thursday, 11 May 2017
Competition and Consumer Legislation Amendment (Small Business Access to Justice) Bill 2017; Second Reading
I am sorry Senator Gallagher; perhaps they do not understand that what you are doing is encouraging more litigation. As a former lawyer, I tell you that if you start on litigation, the only people that will win are the lawyers. Yet this is what the Labor Party is doing; perhaps these days they have a lot of lawyers who are members of their party. That might be why they think it is a good idea.
The government has embarked on another course which we think will help small business. One of the provisions of this bill obliges the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman to provide legal advice on the prospect of obtaining an order of no costs. That is not good public policy—we should not have government agencies giving legal advice of that nature. If a party took up litigation on the basis of such advice from the ombudsman, and if the courts did not grant this order in their favour, can the party withdraw from the litigation without cost penalty? It is also not clear what liability the ombudsman's office would have for providing legal advice which turned out not to be accepted by the court. So there are a lot of flaws in this bill; unfortunately, time does not allow me to go through all of them.
The government is trying to help small business by giving confidence to the Adani mine, which will really help small business. We are also bringing in tax cuts whereby 3.2 million small businesses will pay less tax as of this current financial year, and more small businesses will be able to access small business tax concessions as a result of the change to the definition of small business, raising the threshold from $2 million to $10 million. Those tax cuts were legislated for in May this year, and that will really help small business. We are reforming the competition policy, as suggested in the Harper review in section 46 on the misuse of market power; we are levelling the playing field for small business, to encourage competition and greater productivity; and we have extended the unfair contract term protections to small business entering standard form contracts—that provision commenced in November last year.
It is no good for Labor to bring forward these bills which they know will not be passed. It is no good for Mr Shorten to get up tonight and promise money he does not have. If they want to help small business, Labor need to support the government's proposals for small business in the back tax—and please, can I ask the Labor Party: if you are serious about small business, sit tomorrow! Curtail your long weekend, and do what you are paid to do: come into this chamber tomorrow and debate this, so that we can get this bill through. It not only benefits Adani, workers and Indigenous people, it also benefits the steel mill in Whyalla—I cannot understand why any South Australian senator would oppose that.