Thursday, 11 May 2017
Competition and Consumer Legislation Amendment (Small Business Access to Justice) Bill 2017; Second Reading
I assure you, Senator Dastyari, no offence was taken. I do want to place on the record the fact that this company, in two major projects—at Gorgon and Wheatstone—are investing US$130 billion. To put it into perspective, in today's dollars, that is a project 15 times the size of the Snowy Mountains Scheme—US$130 billion. They will employ 19,000 people in construction. Over the 40-year life of those two projects they will contribute trillions of dollars to the Australian economy, over 100,000 jobs, billions of dollars in taxes and royalties, and, yes, a petroleum resource rent tax. They have invested billions of dollars with local small businesses in Western Australia, around Dampier, Onslow and the other ports. They have effectively developed the town of Onslow. Whilst comments were made by Senator Dastyari—about a person who cannot defend himself and on projects outside of Australia—I can relate to this chamber, as I have done in the past, the very fine occupational health, safety and welfare record of that company.
Finally, in passing, before I go back to addressing the subject of this discussion today, I should say to those who have any concerns about Chevron in the environmental space that Chevron's Gorgon project on Barrow Island is, in fact, in an A-class reserve. It is by far and away, as a result directly of Chevron's investment and care for the natural environment of Barrow Island, the best managed A-class reserve anywhere, not only on mainland Australia but around the Australian coastline. I reject, totally and thoroughly, the assertions made by Senator Dastyari.
I now turn, if I may, to the bill that is before us. I say very proudly that the coalition government always has and always will back small business. We will back it like a Melbourne Cup winner: up the straight, all the way, past the finishing line and through to the parade area. I will tell you why—because it is the engine room of the Australian economy. It employs nearly five million Australians in rural regions, in remote areas of Australia and in suburbs. It employs people at the lower end of the skills level as well as through to highly skilled people. It is the most versatile of all of the employment groups in this country. I am very proud to say that, in the budget of only the last couple of days, we announced a further tax cut for small business and, of course, we will see the company tax rate reduced to some 25 per cent. For those who quite rightly say that an enormous number of small businesses are not companies, it is important to record that there is also a five per cent tax discount for unincorporated companies, for sole operators and partnerships. These are the real issues that help small businesses and encourage further employment of young people and older people in our economy. There is the tax deduction of being able to write off in the one year $20,000 for assets purchased, and multiples of them—not just one. As a restaurant and cafe owner said to me when we first introduced this, 'I can now bring forward by four months the start of my new business because I can purchase different equipment to make that operation run—each one up to $20,000—and I can write it off fully in the first year.' That restaurant is up and running with 14 or 15 staff already.
I am very proud to say what the coalition government is doing and will continue to do. Having run small and medium sized businesses and still assisting constituents where I am able to, in terms of their obligations under the BAS, PAYG, superannuation et cetera, I can say it is the small-business person who really does the work for the Tax Commissioner. They fill out the BAS at the end of every quarter, make sure that the superannuation commitments are met and paid and ensure, of course, that workers compensation insurance and public liability insurance are paid. It is no wonder it is so difficult to make a quid in small business. But this government has cut red tape by $4½ billion, simplifying those processes that I was just speaking about, and removing many small businesses—up to half a million of them—from the PAYG system.
A scheme which I am very minded towards and I think needs enormous support from the parliament is the employee share scheme. If we can get employees to actually own shares in the business in which they are employed, then of course they have that greater incentive, because they themselves are part of the ownership. I, for one, will be watching that aspect of it very, very closely.
We have seen in recent times the opening up of the China-Australia, the Korea-Australia and the Japan-Australia free trade agreements. The best example of all, of course, is the cherry producer in Tasmania who has taken his cherry exports from a very small proportion to being a very significant exporter of that horticultural product into the Chinese market with significant improvement in employment, as I understand it—perhaps Senator McKim would be more familiar than I am and might know—