Senate debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022


Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Self-Employment Programs and Other Measures) Bill 2022

6:25 pm

Photo of Marielle SmithMarielle Smith (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today also to make a contribution on the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Self-Employment Programs and Other Measures) Bill. This bill provides clarity around two self-employment programs that support Australians to start and run small businesses. The first is the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme, or NEIS, that was established in 1985 under a Labor government, and which has successfully assisted 198,000 people in starting their own business since its commencement. An incredible achievement! The second is the Self-Employment Assistance program which largely expanded upon and replaced the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme when it commenced on 1 July 2022. This bill clarifies that the law operates in the same way for Self-Employment Assistance as it now operates for the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme.

The bill makes amendments not only to social security law but also to related elements of two additional important laws: veterans and family law. The bill will update these laws to make clear that Self-Employment Assistance payments will be treated in the same way by the law as the previous New Enterprise Incentive Scheme payments. The bill adds an additional definition of 'self-employment program' and allows for a change in the name of Self-Employment Assistance by the employment secretary to ensure the same laws will apply if the assistance is renamed.

Lastly, the bill makes a small number of minor technical amendments. This bill is an administrative amendment to provide clarification to participants using two incredibly valuable self-employment programs These two programs are designed with the intention to provide assistance to Australians wanting to create new small businesses. As I mentioned previously, the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme was launched under the Hawke government and has helped nearly 200,000 people since it commenced 37 years ago. It's a program designed to help people move off income support by starting their own business and generating their own income—people who are otherwise, perhaps, relying on social security or veterans entitlements payments and, for the past 2½ years, the COVID payment. This is a program with proven effectiveness. It was found that, three months after exiting the program, 82 per cent of participants remained in employment and 68 per cent were still running their business. That is an excellent outcome for the individuals whose real lives this program has impacted and the real businesses and opportunities that they've created. On top of that, more than half of the participants who accessed the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme over the past seven years were women. It's a fantastic opportunity for women to earn their own incomes, support their families and contribute economically to their communities.

The Self-Employment Assistance program commenced on 1 July 2022, and we know it builds upon the existing services of the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme. The Self-Employment Assistance program provides further flexibility and more tailored services to allow participants to access the support that best suits their circumstance. This includes accredited training to prepare a comprehensive business plan, advice sessions and business health checks. These services will help people to generate and validate business ideas and assist them in making informed decisions about the efficacy of their business plan. The Self-Employment Assistance program will continue the self-employment allowance that was established under the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme. This allowance from the government helps supplement the income a participant earns from their business to provide them with the ability to reinvest their business earnings back into that business.

Deputy President, in our home state of South Australia, programs that aid the employment sector are especially welcomed, and I know you would welcome them too. Although we have seen an improvement in the unemployment rate nationally, we know that, in my state of South Australia, the unemployment rate tends to be behind the national average. Indeed, the ABS June report showed that South Australia's unemployment rate was 4.3 per cent, compared to 3.5 per cent nationally. South Australia is now tied with Tasmania as having the highest unemployment rate in Australia. Of course, these aren't just statistics; they're real people. When we lag behind the national employment rate, it has a real impact on people in my state.

I said in my first speech to this place that securing jobs in my state requires governments to stand up and fight for them. We can never be complacent about the need to create effective policies that address the ongoing risks to job security in South Australia. To deliver good jobs in South Australia, we need to actively forge a good economy, to forge opportunities for work and business, opportunities that grow jobs. In South Australia, we know that a strong and resilient economy does not build itself. It has always required a degree of support and assistance.

I'm really proud of the work that successive Labor governments have done to grow business, to grow opportunity and to grow jobs in our state. That work, now, under a state and federal Labor government, will only continue. These two governments are genuinely concerned with jobs, fighting for those jobs and building the conditions to make sure more jobs come to South Australia. They're two governments that understand that that must happen in partnership. We need businesses and workers to succeed side by side to create these fantastic opportunities for small business, to give people the opportunity to enter that sector, to create a business, to potentially become an employer, with all the opportunities that participation in work brings, and further grow and strengthen our economy.

The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme and Self-Employment Assistance program provide South Australians with an alternative to traditional work, and we know it's having a big impact on many South Australians who have been able to access it. I want to share a story about a South Australian named Chloe Gardner. Ms Gardner is an award-winning filmmaker who has also worked as an actress and in management across many companies. Ms Gardner did not have much business knowledge, but, through the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme, she was able to bring her ideas together and gain the knowledge required to start a business, including knowledge in financial management, legal matters and marketing.

This assistance and knowledge gained from her time in the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme facilitated the creation of her award-winning business, Kids Camera Action! In 2018, this business was selected as a world-class organisation to present workshops in the United Arab Emirates. This business has enabled thousands of children across South Australia to learn new skills and refine existing strengths in the art of filmmaking. What an incredible contribution to these kids in South Australia and the community as a whole. These stories are inspiring and empowering. I wish we could hear more of them, especially given how tough South Australians, particularly young South Australians, have been doing it these past years.

As we know, young South Australians have suffered tremendously over the last decade. Of course, we've had the COVID pandemic, a pandemic we're still living in and dealing with. But through its most difficult phases, those young people were left behind in my state by a government that didn't give their voices the prominence they deserved. Let's be clear: young people bear the brunt of government failures more than any other group in society. They've suffered through two years of insecure employment, cuts to education, and government policy that pushed them to raid their small balances of super. Will they ever recover from that raid? This was a government that pushed the consequences of its choices and actions onto the younger generation, a generation that was denied a proper and loud voice at the heart of government. This is something that the Labor government will address.

I note the work of our Minister for Youth and what she intends to bring forward to make sure that young people's voices are well and truly heard within the Albanese Labor government. When we think about the trillion dollars of debt inherited by those opposite, the burden of that falls disproportionately on young people. We know that. It's those young people who will feel the after-effects of government failure for years to come.

I am proud to stand in this chamber today and speak on this bill and the additional positive policies and plans of the Albanese government that will help young Australians. That's really what it's all about—the opportunities to create jobs and opportunities for young people. That is what Labor is all about. We've got policies that will bring back secure employment and make our education system more accessible. I stood in this chamber when those opposite made significant cuts to the university sector which made it harder and more expensive for many young Australians to go to university. It was unacceptable. We want our education system to be more accessible and not less. We want job security front and centre. We'll make it an object of the Fair Work Act and ensure the Fair Work Commission considers it. We've got a range of policies to support casual workers—workers employed directly through companies and also through labour hire measures—that would bring security to workers in Australia and bring back confidence in the workforce.

Unfortunately, the previous government's TAFE and education cuts meant a loss in skills and training across Australia—another thing that we are working to fix. The Self-Employment Assistance program described in this bill provides the training required for those wanting to start a small business, but this is not everything, of course. We need to get that investment into TAFE and into training. That's why we're providing 465,000 fee-free TAFE places to train Australians in jobs currently experiencing skills shortages—jobs like engineering, nursing, tech and teaching. We'll deliver up to 20,000 extra uni places over 2022 and 2023, making it easier to get a spot at uni. For young people who want to go to uni and who want that opportunity, ultimately, that's their ticket to a chance at a job in their chosen field. All of these measures combine with the programs explained in this bill and all the things in our agenda to make our economy fairer, to create jobs and to grow opportunities for young people. These are things to celebrate. These are part of our agenda as the Albanese Labor government.

I think there is certainly plenty of work we need to do to make sure that young South Australians—indeed, all South Australians who want to enter the workforce—have an opportunity to access good jobs and create their own businesses. For young people, we need to support their choices, whether it's to go to university or to do a trade or an apprenticeship. Whatever it may be that enables our young people to fulfil their dreams and aspirations and hopes, that's something worthy of our government's support.

For all South Australians who want to work, who appreciate and understand the dignity of work and what those opportunities mean for families, I know so many South Australians value that and value that it is something in our state which is not ever to be taken for granted. Our opportunities, our employment prospects and jobs in my state of South Australia, are things that governments actually have to fight for, so I acknowledge the work of our state Labor government and our federal Labor government. These are really, really important things. I thank the Senate for the opportunity to talk on the bill, and I commend it to the Senate.


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