Tuesday, 2 August 2022
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Self-Employment Programs and Other Measures) Bill 2022
Before my speech on the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Self-Employment Programs and Other Measures) Bill 2022 was interrupted, I was talking about the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme and how important it was. It was introduced in 1985 by the Hawke government. This initiative is particularly important to mention because it relates directly to the bill we're debating now. Through NEIS, individuals can receive a package of services that helps them to establish a new business. More recently, it has also helped existing business owners impacted by COVID-19 to continue running their businesses or refocus their operations to meet new areas of demand. Since NEIS was introduced, it has helped over 198,000 people. As I was saying, there are a number of supports available through NEIS, including accredited small-business training, help to develop a business plan, personalised mentoring from an NEIS provider and, if you are eligible, NEIS allowance for up to 39 weeks and NEIS rental assistance for up to 26 weeks.
NEIS can potentially be a great option for jobseekers. If someone has a business idea they'd like to try out which is likely to be commercially viable, NEIS provides the flexibility to allow them to put their energy into pursuing that idea without having to apply for jobs in the meantime. After all, when someone is making a genuine effort to secure a regular income then why place restrictions on whether they do it through employment or self-employment? While some people are happy working for someone else, there are others who like the choice, the control and the freedom that comes with self-employment. There are many people who struggle with traditional employment but thrive in an environment where they can be their own boss.
It's interesting to note that people with disability, because of the challenges they face in having their skills recognised, are 40 per cent more likely to be self-employed than the rest of the population. Clearly, there is much more work to be done to overcome discrimination against people with disability and to recognise the valuable skills and talents they have. But I am also glad that so many people with disability have had a chance to put their skills to use in a way that also gives them freedom and control.
The success of NEIS is not just in its ability to help people establish their own business; it also helps establish businesses that survive and thrive. Three months after exiting the program, 82 per cent of NEIS participants remained in employment and 68 per cent were still running their business. The fact that NEIS has continued for 37 years through governments of both persuasions is a testament to its success and the esteem in which it is held. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment website features many success stories about how the program has helped people pursue their business ideas.
Several other success stories appeared in the booklet celebrating the 30th anniversary of the scheme. One of my favourites, because it is from my home state of Tasmania, is that of Social Circus Tasmania. Christian and Staja Florence established the business in 2012. The idea behind Social Circus Tasmania is to engage individuals, groups, families and communities in circus workshops to build teamwork, trust, determination, concentration and playfulness. A few years ago Social Circus Tasmania had a presence at a big event called 'A Day on the Beach', of which I've been patron for about a decade, although the event is now changing its name to 'A Day at the Park'. While the founders, Christian and Staja, had extensive skills and experience in circus performance, what they gained through NEIS was how to turn that experience and their passion for something they enjoyed doing into a viable business. This is the value of the business management training and business planning assistance that NEIS offers.
Some of the many other success stories include: a children's clothing business which, during COVID, pivoted to producing face masks when Melbourne went into lockdown; a former Australian Defence Force member who, through his successful career, had developed a passion for health, fitness and pushing people to their limit, and turned it into a personal training business; someone who had a unique knowledge of locations not being visited by tour operators attracted a market with her new tour company; and a theatre prop maker and scenic artist who applied her skills to a new business manufacturing wooden furniture and toys, including bespoke rocking horses. It's mind-boggling to think of the wealth of amazing stories that the thousands of people who have benefited from NEIS would have to tell.
The bill before the Senate now, the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Self-Employment Programs and Other Measures) Bill 2022 is necessary because of some recent changes to NEIS. These changes came into effect on 1 July 2022. NEIS has been replaced with the Self-Employment Assistance program throughout Australia, with the exception of Norfolk Island, where NEIS will continue to be offered. This bill updates the Social Security Act 1991, the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 and the Family Law Regulations 1984 to make it clear that the social security law, veterans' entitlement law and family law operate in the same way for the new program as they did for NEIS. It also includes some minor technical amendments and clarifications to the social security law following the recent Social Security Legislation Amendment (Streamlined Participation Requirements and Other Measures) Act 2022.
As servants to the people of Queensland and Australia, One Nation stands for veterans and small business. But I want to address the root cause. This is a bandaid; it's very necessary but it's not addressing the root cause.
Senator Gallagher has stated that self-employment is 'an excellent alternative to traditional employment for Australians who want to use their existing skills and experience in a work environment of their choice'. We agree. Yet Labor is really anti-self-employment and soon intends to stifle small business and self-employed Australians under gig laws that could strangle the sector. They devastated California, for example, and sent people interstate. There's nowhere to go beyond the shores of this country if Labor gets its way.
I remember what Labor, the union bosses and some dishonest, disrespectful, antihuman multinational corporations did in the Hunter Valley. Labor joined them in enabling the exploitation and abuse of casual coalminers in the Hunter, and when I tried to stand up for them the Labor member of parliament for the Hunter at the time, Mr Joel Fitzgibbon, misrepresented me and the problems, apparently to hide the problems. That perpetuated the abuse of workers and the hurting of workers. Labor does not care about workers. Modern Labor cares about getting Green votes in the inner cities.
Everyday Australians are now suffering from 2½ years of COVID mismanagement, and it is ongoing. Labor wasn't the federal government during that time, but Labor was in power in the states, and the states and the federal government worked together, hand in hand, to destroy the productive capacity of this country, not only over the last 2½ years but over the last 78 years, since 1944. Labor wants to phase out the coal industry and jobs in the coal sector and related sectors. The Labor-Greens coalition in the Senate is hell-bent on doing that. Labor is in favour of eroding our rights and freedoms and increasing rents, house prices, energy prices and debt. There is a lack of much-needed tax reform and economic reform. That needs to be comprehensive reform. As I said a minute ago, Australia's productive capacity is being destroyed and has been in the process of being destroyed for 78 years.
In uncertain times, such as I've just described, much, much more needs to be done to support small business and the self-employed. Yes, we agree that starting a new enterprise or a self-employment assistance program is a help to some people, particularly hardworking vets who have earned the support, but they're up against it in the form of the taxation system, energy prices, lack of infrastructure and capricious overregulation. All workers—not just vets—are suffering because the productive capacity of our beautiful country has been destroyed.
The economic environment has been destroyed. The government's job is not to employ people. The government's job is to create an environment that favours employment through people taking risks with investment and hiring workers. That's where real jobs—sustainable jobs—come from. That's known throughout civilisation. We must give Australians the opportunity to be free, to be their own boss and to own a business that offers them secure work and financial independence. They should be free to create, initiate and innovate, and that requires cheap energy. Labor, with its mates in the Labor-Greens coalition, are raising energy prices. We went from having the cheapest electricity sources in the world to having amongst the highest electricity prices in the world. It's not due to resources and it's not due to Mother Nature; it's due entirely to mismanagement under the Liberal-Labor-Nats-Greens circus.
Not only do we need affordable, reliable and secure energy but also we need fair reward. That means we need a comprehensive reform of the tax system. Why are we letting multinational corporations off the hook, as we did with Robert Menzies's bill in 1953 and Prime Minister Hawke's legislation on the petroleum rent resource tax in the 1980s? Both sides have done it. Jim Killaly, the former deputy assistant commissioner of taxation in this country, who was responsible for large companies and international matters, said—and he said it in 1996 and in 2010—that 90 per cent of Australia's large companies are foreign owned and, since 1953, have paid little or no company tax.
Meanwhile individuals in this country are paying exorbitant tax rates. The median income in this country now is $51,000. After tax, that's around $45,000 or $46,000. The additional cost of Labor, Greens, Nationals and Liberals policy on energy—the additional cost of solar and wind subsidies and climate subsidies—is a staggering $1,300 per year. How the hell can someone earning $45,000 or $46,000 a year afford that additional cost? That's not the cost of electricity; that's an additional cost for solar and wind subsidies. We're sending the country broke because of the people in this building lacking the courage to do what is right and tell the truth. Veterans need more support, and this bill is just not enough. When will Labor and the Greens do something about housing, rent, veteran suicide, agriculture, energy and inflation? Who will protect the economy and jobs? Who will create the economic environment that will enable people to invest, innovate, create and to be entrepreneurs? Who will do that? When will Labor and the Greens do something about this very issue? Who will restore the productive capacity of our country, the economic environment of our country? Labor and the Greens don't understand.
In fact, while I enjoyed listening to Senator Allman-Payne yesterday, sharing her emotions freely, she was crying at the plight of the poor and then congratulating Senator Larissa Waters for her 12 years in the Senate when Senator Waters is directly responsible for raising the cost of electricity which is destroying the poor and raising prices through the roof in terms of inflation. That's what's going on: it's complete ignorance. Contrary to that, we understand. One Nation understand the root causes and the solutions to the root causes of these problems. We are one people, we are one community and we are one magnificent country with enormous potential. We just need to become, again, one nation.
The Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Self-Employment Programs and Other Measures) Bill 2022 seeks to amend social security law and related elements of veterans and family laws. This is to make clear the law operates in the same way when participants access self-employment services through the Self-Employment Assistance program as through the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme. They're subtle but important changes to ensure services are streamlined and support is available to people engaged in self-employment and small businesses across Australia.
We can all appreciate the importance of small business to the Australian economy, communities and families. There are around 2.4 million small businesses actively trading and employing around 4.7 million people. Self-employed people take many familiar forms. They could be a writer, a photographer, a hairdresser, an accountant, a landscaper or a lawyer. Self-employment is an alternative to traditional employment and offers Australians the opportunity to use their skills to succeed. It gives Australians freedom to use their existing experience and skills to work in an environment of their choice. Our government recognises the importance of this choice and the support needed to foster that choice.
Self-employment also helps Australians who struggle to apply their skills in other labour market settings, to use those skills and succeed in their area of employment. That's why people, especially those with a disability, who still face significant challenges in having their skills recognised by employers, are more likely to be self-employed than the general population in Australia. Whether it's an Indigenous artist based in the Northern Territory or a cafe owner in Sydney, self-employment provides an invaluable opportunity for Australians to pursue their passion and find meaningful work that is valuable to themselves, their family, their community and the Australian economy. It's really why this bill is so important. It will give self-employed Australians confidence that there is clear and consistent treatment of income tested support within the relevant legislative frameworks. The significance of this support cannot be understated.
The Labor Party has a strong history of supporting new small businesses and self-employment. It was the Hawke government that launched the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme, or NEIS program, in 1985 to help unemployed Australians create their own employment opportunities. Since then, NEIS has successfully helped around 200,000 Australians to start and run their small businesses. The program provided small business training and 12 months of personalised mentoring to support Australians to start viable small businesses. The Self-Employment Assistance program today builds on the success of NEIS and its legacy through additional and more tailored services that allow participants to choose what support they need for their small business.
The amendments will help make sure the same support made available under NEIS will continue to support people in the Self-Employment Assistance program today. Both Self-Employment Assistance and the Entrepreneurship Facilitators program give participants the tools that they needed to create their own business and earn an income to achieve financial independence, with fewer traditional jobs available and an increased number of job-ready seekers on the employment services caseload. Self-Employment Assistance offers flexible services to help people who are interested in becoming self-employed and people who are existing microbusiness owners, and it's delivered by small business specialist providers in 51 employment regions across Australia. The involvement of self-employment support and associated reforms has become farther-ranging and more inclusive since the beginnings of the NEIS almost 40 years ago.
In 2012, concurrency for disability employment services participants was introduced to the program. This allowed disability employment services participants to continue to have access to specialised disability support while also accessing specialised small-business support from the NEIS provider. Australia's disability strategy 2021-2031 recognises the crucial role of self-employment and business ownership and increasing employment a disability. Self-employment creates opportunity amidst the labour market disadvantages faced by people living with a disability. In fact, individuals with a disability already had a higher relative rate of business ownership than those without a disability. Australia's disability entrepreneurial ecosystem: experiences of people with disability with microenterprises, self-employment and entrepreneurship, a joint report from the University of Technology Sydney, National Disability Services, Settlement Services International, and Break-Thru People Solutions, published in 2020, found that people with a disability were 40 per cent more likely to be self-employed.
In 2016, the high-disadvantage trial was also introduced to provide additional support for more Australians engaged in self-employment. This trial targeted a range of disadvantaged cohorts such as migrants, people with a disability and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. In 2018, the high-disadvantage trial was amended to focus on assisting migrants and refugees, and NEIS providers could access these places on and an as-needed basis.
In 2019, Entrepreneurship Facilitators expanded to 23 regions across Australia, broadening eligibility to anyone wishing to start their own business. A year later, eligibility to access NEIS was also amended to support part-time businesses to assist those with caring responsibilities or working part time with accessing support to create their own income through self-employment. It also supported existing microbusinesses impacted by COVID-19 with accessing support to pivot their businesses to remain viable. In July last year, veterans transitioning out of the Australian Defence Forces, and their adult family members, were able to access workshops and commence NEIS training while still in the ADF to explore self-employment while still employed. Strong demand for support emerged during COVID-19, when there were fewer traditional jobs available and many jobseekers sought to create their own job by starting a small business. NEIS, or new business assistance with NEIS, ended on 30 June this year, replaced with the new Self-Employment Assistance program, which supports more tailored servicing and participants choosing which services they need to access to support their self-employment journey.
I would also like to share some of the personal stories of this program. Participants value the space, the self-employment program creates to help them develop their ideas and learning critical foundational skills like bookkeeping and connecting with mentors. The program also creates a safety net for those just starting out, allowing them to start earning income from their new business while NEIS allowances are paid. Participants can also receive income from outside the business, such as from investments or other work, while receiving assistance. Successful NEIS alumni include singers, comedians, web designers, music venue developers and artisan ice-cream makers.
I want to bring to the Senate a fantastic story from the Northern Territory. It's one of almost 200,000 coming from the NEIS, which really humanises the importance of good policy in small-business support. In 2012, Holly Copping opened the doors to the Territory Laser Clinic. Established while participating in the NEIS program, the Territory Laser Clinic offers a range of treatments, including those related to acne, acne scarring and tattoo removal. Having experienced acne from the age of 12, Holly wanted to ensure no-one struggled with the same issues that she did, and she became the Northern Territory's first qualified dermal therapist. Holly enjoyed using her knowledge and expertise to change people's lives.
While participating in NEIS, Holly was nominated for two regional awards and was awarded the National NEIS Association's award Best New Business in 2013. She became the first Northern Territory business to win the award. Holly was presented with the award by the Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, which was a very special moment for her. I want to put into Hansard Holly's quotes, when she reflected on how far that program had taken her and where it actually took her. Holly said:
I can honestly say that the NEIS programme is 100 per cent worth the effort. The advice and coaching I received was invaluable. Monthly mentoring and quarterly visits ensured that I monitored the growth of my business, and the financial support was amazing to say the least. I can highly recommend this programme to anyone who has a new business idea.
That was Holly Copping when she received her award.
It's, really, individual stories like this that show us the real impact that business support has on people's lives, particularly when it comes to self-employment and fostering small business. Small businesses are the backbone of many communities across Australia. Small business and those with fewer than 20 employees comprise around 98 per cent of all business operating in the Australian economy. And, as I said previously, they employ around 4.7 million people or around 41 per cent of the business workforce. Small business is diverse, operating in every industry and region, attracting a range of different owners and employees, and can be highly agile and adept at responding to areas of the economy that are experiencing growth. Small business is continuously entering and exiting the Australian economy.
As at 30 June 2021 there were around 2.4 million actively trading businesses in the Australian economy. Within this landscape, around 360,000 new businesses entered the economy and around 270,000 businesses exited. Small businesses are particularly significant employers in the agriculture, forestry and fishing, rental, hiring and real estate, construction and professional, scientific and technical services sectors. So while the industry mix changes over time, the most common sectors for new NEIS businesses are hospitality, retail trade, transport and logistics, and professional services.
Self-employment programs, such as Self-Employment Assistance and the Entrepreneurship Facilitator, have a role in helping people create new small businesses and ensuring people who start in these businesses have the ability and knowledge to survive, thrive and grow. There was a significant increase in self-employment seen through COVID due to the lack of traditional jobs available, which is perhaps another demonstration of the importance of flexibility in self-employment and associated programs.
There will be $843 million available over five years, from 2021-22, for self-employment services, and this is an absolutely critical investment. Self-Employment Assistance overall is a more flexible and tailored program and allows participants to access the service components in any order, based on their individual needs. Self-Employment Assistance providers have a greater role in promoting self-employment opportunities as well as promoting the program in their local regions to the broader community as well as key stakeholders.
These important changes streamline the delivery of services, increase referrals to self-employment and reduce duplication. The bill, as part of schedule 1, will also ensure that, if Self-Employment Assistance is given a different name, the family, social security and veterans' entitlement laws will continue to operate in the same way. Whether you are a veteran, a young person, a refugee or a single mother with caring duties, it's important that we as parliamentarians extend our support to self-employed Australians who need it.
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.
I rise with some degree of pleasure to speak on this bill, another initiative coming from the newly elected Albanese government, who are firmly focused on enabling Australians, bringing jobs into being and making sure that people who need support in establishing their own work through their small businesses get the assistance that they need. This bill, the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Self-Employment Programs and Other Measures) Bill 2022, makes small but nonetheless crucial amendments to replace the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme with the Self-Employment Assistance program throughout most of Australia.
I think we can underplay the importance of how things are named. I know in the previous parliament I was very distressed that some of the bills, whose titles were determined by the then government, didn't actually say what they did. Australians understand what it is to become self-employed, with all the joys, the opportunities and the excitement but also with all the debt, the worries and the concerns. They know what self-employment is, and that is what this bill is about.
The bill clarifies that social security law, veterans entitlement law and family law operate in the same way for a new program, Self-Employment Assistance, as for the NEIS, and it also makes a few other minor amendments and clarifications to the current social security law.
Self-employment assistance is vital to help those who want to launch their own business and those who have launched their own business and, through that experience, have come to a point of figuring out that they actually need to have a few of their particular questions answered. It can be one thing to be inspired to create your own business, find out a little bit on the internet and get started, but there will be headwinds, and this program recognises that and is here to support people so that they can get the assistance that they need.
Now, clearly, it has had some impact of a positive kind on the futures of those who have started businesses in recent years. The NEIS figures show that it has helped nearly 200,000 Australians be their own bosses and put into reality their dreams of independence.
I do want to say that there has been, for far too long, an argument and an unquestioned—in some parts of the Australian community—sense that small business is represented by one party in this place. Well, that is absolutely not the case. I know, from talking to colleagues around the chamber and certainly amongst my colleagues in the Labor Party, that very many of us either grew up in family businesses, small businesses, or ran them ourselves. I see Senator McAllister here, and I know that she grew up in the Northern Rivers part of New South Wales, and, seriously, without small businesses that were functioning and operating there, people would be profoundly disadvantaged in terms of employment. Great employers create jobs.
The reality is: not everybody wants to be an employer; not everybody wants to set up their own business; not everybody has the health, the wellbeing, the disposition, the opportunity or the capital to undertake the risk of small business. Not everybody is willing to sell their house—as my father did. I cannot believe he convinced my mother to do this. Having struggled to get a house, five years after they arrived they got one, at Blacktown: 17 Curran Street; a fibro double-fronter; no furniture. They'd got a house five years after they arrived in the country. And my father convinced my mother to sell that house so that he could buy a machine, a front-end loader/backhoe, so that he could commence his own business. Not everybody has that dream and that vision, and not everybody is willing to take on the joys and the risks. But, coming from a small business family, I know how important it can be to get the right advice and the right assistance, when the time is right for that for you and for your business.
Now, Self-Employment Assistance is a fantastic program that helps jobseekers to create their own business and earn an income, to achieve financial independence. Sometimes this is born of necessity, if you can't find a job in the area that you live in and you start to figure out: 'Actually, there are a whole lot of lawns that haven't been mowed in my street. Perhaps I might go down to Mrs Jones. I'll begin to do that.' Well, there are a whole lot of questions that follow on from that: 'What are the health and safety obligations? What do I need to do to establish this? Have I got enough money for the plant and equipment? What are the protections?' People have questions.
Now, this program provides flexible services to people who are interested in becoming self-employed and people who are in existing microbusinesses. The program itself is delivered by business owners and by small business specialists. It is provided through 51 employment regions across Australia. So, if you or someone you know and love is at the point where you or they need some assistance with a small business or microbusiness, or if you have plans to start your own business, know that, right across the country, there is this program there, ready to assist you. And when businesses succeed and they grow, they generate jobs. And that is a fine thing to do—to create work for one of our fellow Australians.
The services that are provided across these 51 employment regions in Australia include 'exploring self-employment' workshops and involve five sessions that are delivered over a period of one to three weeks, providing participants with all the information that they may need about self-employment and what they need to really know to start and run a business. I'm sure that some who have already started will go in there and think, 'Oh, my goodness, I could have made my life so much easier if I'd got a bit of information!' And there would be others who would be going in with more detailed questions because they have started and they want to know how they can improve what they're doing.
Small business training will provide participants with the foundation skills they need to start and run a small business, and they can access accredited training and choose to do a shorter skill set or a longer cert III or IV in entrepreneurship and new business. Having been a teacher in my life prior to coming to parliament, it's amazing when young people who really were not interested in what school had to offer find their passion; they're interested in finding out what they need to do to bring their passion to life, to monetise it and be able to live their best life, employing themselves in doing what they want to do.
Returning to study for people who might not have enjoyed school is something that's happening through this program, and it's vital that we have access to training programs. That's why Labor's support of fee-free TAFE places is critical to the growth of jobs in this country—to liberate the capacity and talent of the nation by giving people the opportunity to take what they know and to build on it through further training without incurring an enormous debt, which can be the thing that stops them from following their dreams.
The other supports that are offered through this program include business plan development. That supports people to prepare a viable business plan to help their business succeed, helping them identify strategies for success and to forecast the cash flow for their business. Business advice sessions are also available, offering targeted advice relating to a participant's business idea or to existing microbusiness owners, with sessions offered over the course of an hour. Sometimes it is just a chat with a mentor that can really unplug some particularly sticky situations for small businesses. There are also business health checks for existing microbusiness owners, where a participant works with a provider to find ways to improve the viability of the business. They can be delivered in one-on-one sessions over three hours. Small business coaching is also available, and that offers 12 months of personalised mentoring and support to help participants start, develop and run a successful business.
The participants who are accepted into the small business coaching element of the program can also receive financial support to purchase up to $300 worth of business costs, such as business insurance. As I said earlier, I am still amazed that my father was able to convince my mother to risk capital from our house to commence a business, and go out and start digging trenches and building roads. As somebody who grew up in that environment, practising answering the phone for the business from age seven, it's a knowledge and skill set that many of us learned at the kitchen table and learned through our immersion in family businesses. But for many Australians that's a commencement of learning that needs to be further developed, outside the kitchen table and with other people who have mentoring capacities and the visual and technical skills to help people understand the full potential of their business. The programs that I'm describing here really provide a level playing field and provide some security and support to make sure that these businesses are set up in a way that is compliant with Australian law and gives the best chance of success. I know that any aspiring small business owner needs the right skills and tools to realise their dreams, and this program is designed to that end.
Small businesses everywhere are the engine room of growth for the Australian economy, but they are particularly vital in the regions of Australia like the Central Coast—my home. It's only a couple of hours north of Sydney but a different world entirely, where public transport doesn't exist and small businesses are the driver of our local economy. I'm also the duty senator for pretty well most of the western part of New South Wales, for the seats of Calare, Parkes, Farrer, Hume and Riverina, and also for the seat of Lyne. All of these are seats where incredible business is done and incredible wealth for the country is generated. They are replete with people commencing their own journey in small business. We need to help nurture more and more of these small businesses to keep growing our economy. They are often sites where innovation occurs.
Small businesses form 98 per cent of all existing businesses and employ 41 per cent of Australia's workforce. That's an astounding number of Australians who are engaged in small business, either as the director of the business or as an employee. So 4.7 million of us are involved in small business.
For many people small business is their pathway to the middle class, to enable them to fulfil their aspirations. It's not surprising that in the story I tell about my parents—I'll add a little bit to it! They were immigrants, first arriving here at the end of 1960, putting their shoulder to the wheel in an economy that was growing at the time, and they really worked hard to get themselves a far better life than they had left behind in England, where they met, and in Ireland, where they had been born. It's so important that we provide all Australians with free education programs that allow them to access the opportunities they need to fully contribute to Australia and our success as a nation.
The results of the program are there for all to see. There have been 198,000 people helped by the program, including 47,259 who have started a new business since July 2015. I'm pleased to say 25,249 of those entrepreneurs were women—that's 53 per cent—and 18,791 were mature-age people aged 45 years and over. The program itself also plays a vital role in helping Australians with a disability become self-employed. Disabled Australians actually have a higher rate of relative business ownership than non-disabled Australians, at 11.6 per cent compared to only 8.2 per cent of the general public. The Australian disability strategy 2021-23 actively seeks to increase that already substantial number.
If there was more time I would tell you about two fantastic participants in this program—MAZ3D epoxy floor coatings in Ryde, and Just Enough Beach hand-poured candles in the New South Wales North Coast in Yamba. They're just a couple of the thousands and thousands of companies that have benefited from taking their business and themselves through this program, through mentoring, to improve the capacity of their business. And with success comes more and more jobs. These are stories we should celebrating, and more and more the revamp of this program will provide those opportunities.
Our economy will get back on track through the hard work and initiative of people like those business owners who have already benefited. Labor certainly believes in giving entrepreneurial Australians the toolkit they need to start their own business, be their own boss and grow the jobs for future Australians.
I too rise to speak on the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Self-Employment Programs and Other Measures) Bill 2022. This bill seeks to update the Social Security Act 1991, the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 and the Family Law Regulations 1984 to provide clarity and consistency in our laws regarding the new Self-Employment Assistance program.
The Self-Employment Assistance program, which started on 1 July this year, replaced the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme. Labor is very proud of its history with this program. Labor recognises that small businesses are a vital part of our economy. We know that there are over 2.4 million small businesses actively trading in Australia today and that they employ almost five million workers. The development of small business is also an alternative to traditional employment for so many Australians that can provide secure work and financial independence if people are supported with programs like this, while also supporting Australians to use their skills that might not otherwise be recognised by traditional employers to still succeed. That is part of the role of small business as an alternative to traditional employment for many people.
Successive Labor governments have supported and encouraged the development of small business in Australia, and the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme is just one example of that. The scheme was introduced by the Hawke Labor government way back in 1985 to help unemployed Australians create their own employment opportunities, and it's been running for 37 years. Over the course of those 37 years this scheme has helped almost 200,000 Australians to start and run their very own small business.
Before this scheme's creation, before it came into effect, when someone started a small business they would cease to be eligible to access income support, and that acted as a barrier to those who otherwise would have sought to take on a small business venture and create their own employment opportunities. So, to incentivise those who were unemployed to create a small business, the Hawke government launched a trial of the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme, offering participants an allowance in line with their income support entitlement; providing small-business training, with courses designed for participants to learn foundational business skills and develop business plans; and, as well, providing 12 months of personalised mentoring to support those participants to create their very own viable business. Later, in 2012, this scheme was expanded to include participants of disability employment services. It supported Australians with a disability to develop a small business, giving them the flexibility and financial independence of self-employment.
The educational and mentoring support included in this scheme has also been extended to those not on income support to encourage more Australians to start viable small businesses. In the last few years eligibility for the scheme has also been expanded to veterans transitioning out of the Australian Defence Force, giving them access to training while they are still employed. It has also been expanded to support part-time businesses, assisting those with part-time employment or, for example, caring responsibilities. These really important expansions have increased participation in the New Enterprise Investment Scheme. In fact, it's women who have made up 53 per cent of participants in the scheme over the past several years, and people with a disability make up almost 20 per cent. Great outcomes have been delivered for these participants, and we can see that in some of statistics on the success of the program. Eighty-two per cent of participants remain in employment three months after they exit the program, and almost 70 per cent are still running their businesses.
Strong demand for this program emerged during COVID, when fewer traditional jobs were available and many jobseekers were looking to self-employment through starting a small business as the way forward during very difficult times. The scheme also helped many businesses pivot to deliver services in new and innovative ways to remain viable, really demonstrating the key role that government can play in helping businesses adapt in uncertain times.
On 1 July this year the scheme I've been describing was replaced with the new Self-Employment Assistance program. This new program builds on the success of that Hawke government legacy dating back 37 years to 1985. With a budget of over $840 million over five years, the program will continue to support Australians to start and run small businesses, which will create jobs, grow our economy and improve labour market outcomes.
The new program allows eligible people interested in self-employment to receive free help to generate and validate business ideas, allowing them to make really well informed decisions about whether self-employment is actually a good fit for them and, potentially, for their families. The expanded program will provide additional services that will be tailored to participants, allowing them to choose the supports that they need—the supports that really suit them in the small business that they would like to set up. These are supports such as free accredited training, business plan development, business advice sessions and business health checks. And business mentoring and advice will be available for eligible business owners who have only recently started trading or who need assistance to adapt their business and their business model in our changing economic environment.
The Self-Employment Assistance program retains the successful components of the New Enterprise Investment Scheme while introducing changes to small business and entrepreneurship services to make them more flexible, and improving access for jobseekers and microbusiness owners. This bill will ensure that the same supports available under the former scheme will continue to support participants of the Self-Employment Assistance program, making clear in our laws that the previous provisions for payments apply equally to the payments under the Self-Employment Assistance program. That's very important to providing clarity for participants while they support themselves to establish their new businesses.
We recognise that this program has supported Australians to gain flexibility and financial security through self-employment, and we recognise that self-employment is a viable pathway for Australians to move off income support, earn their own income and contribute to their communities. But of course we also know that starting a small business takes a lot of time and requires a lot of support, particularly financial support. Labor is committed to supporting and fostering self-employment opportunities for small businesses for people who want to start their own small business. We understand how critical small businesses are to our economy. I must say that it was a pleasure to follow Senator O'Neill in my comments; she has been such a champion for small business in this country. I echo the comments that Senator O'Neill made, and the passion that she demonstrated for our government to show support to people to really pursue their dreams in setting up their own small business.
Like Senator O'Neill, Labor is committed across the board to supporting and fostering people's small business opportunities. We know that small business is critical—across the economy but also in particular to local communities, and, as Senator O'Neill said as well, particularly in regional communities. They make up 98 per cent of all businesses in our country and employ around 41 per cent of the business workforce. Small businesses are in every part of the country, in every industry and in every region around Australia. So often small business is the real backbone of local communities.
The New Enterprise Investment Scheme is a legacy of the Hawke Labor government, and it is really such a strong sign of the work that this parliament can do when we work together in a bipartisan fashion to support good programs. We have a legacy here with this program; it has lasted for over 37 years and through 14 parliaments. That's the sort of change that Labor governments can deliver for Australians and that Labor governments will continue to deliver for Australians: lasting change, change that helps people not only to keep their heads above water and to survive but actually to thrive—to thrive in their businesses and in their communities.
This is a program that we're so proud of because it supports people to upskill and re-skill, and it gives them the tools to be successful. It supports Australians to find secure work, whether that's in a traditional employment setting or whether it's through self-employment. Our government will maximise small-business participation in Commonwealth procurement, and use our purchasing power to also support small business through those procurement measures. We believe in delivering better value for money, growing our local economy and providing greater opportunities for business to create more, better and more secure Australian jobs.
Our government will help address skills shortages that are affecting small businesses, through fee-free TAFE and our cheaper childcare policy. We're committed to removing barriers to getting people into the workforce, as well as barriers to those who want to return to work. The Albanese government is delivering a better deal for small business by listening to people's needs, reviving genuine collaboration between small business and government, and drawing on Labor's history of working with unions, workers and industry to deliver better outcomes for all.
I rise to speak on the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Self-Employment Programs and Other Measures) Bill 2022. Small businesses in Australia have taken a battering over the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, and none more so than those who are just starting out. That's why it's more important than ever for government to support and encourage the development of new small businesses and to help viable businesses adapt to change.
Small businesses are a vital part of the Australian economy, with 2.4 million small businesses actively trading and employing around 4.7 million people. In Tasmania, the state I represent, 97 per cent of businesses are small businesses, and there are just under 40,000 small businesses employing around 100,000 people. That figure really hits home when you consider that there are around 263,700 employed people in the whole state—so nearly 40 per cent of working Tasmanians are employed in a small business. Almost a quarter of all Tasmania small-business operators are born overseas.
Labor knows that giving Australians the opportunity to be their own boss and own a business that offers them secure work and financial independence is absolutely vital. For many Australians, self-employment is a great alternative to traditional employment, allowing them to use their existing skills and experience in a work environment they get to shape and mould. It also assists Australians who struggle to apply their skills in other labour market settings to use those skills and succeed. It is particularly important as an option for people with disability, who still face significant challenges in having their skills recognised by employers. It is interesting to note that people living with disability are more than 40 per cent more likely to be self-employed than the rest of the general population.
But it takes time and other support to establish a small business, including financial support. The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme has operated for over 35 years across Australia, and it is designed to assist people receiving Job Network or Centrelink services to develop and launch their own small business. It was established by the Hawke Labor government and was launched as a pilot program on the first day of July in 1985. This scheme was very much designed to help unemployed Australians create their own employment opportunities and to provide a safety net for those just starting out, allowing them to start earning income from their new business while the scheme allowance was paid. The scheme was established as an ongoing program in 1987 after an evaluation report identified it was having a positive effect on sustained self-employment. In 1988, the program was modified to allow private-sector and non-government organisations to deliver NEIS services. Run through the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, it provides training in how to develop, plan and execute a business, and then allows people to operate their business with supported funding for up to 12 months. The program provides small-business training and 12 months of personalised mentoring support from contracted business owners or identified mentors. During the 12 months, NEIS participants offered an allowance equal to basic JobSeeker rates for up to nine months and rent assistance for up to six months. Since 1985, the NEIS has successfully helped over 198,000 business to start and run a small business.
Small businesses are particularly significant employers in the agriculture, forestry and fishing, rental hiring and real estate, construction, professional, scientific and technical services sectors. While the industries change over time, the most common sectors for new NEIS businesses are hospitality, retail trade, transport and logistics, and professional services. In 2012, concurrency for Disability Employment Service participants were introduced, allowing DES participants to have specialised disability supports while also accessing specialised small-business support from a NEIS provider.
In 2016, as part of the encouraging entrepreneurship and self-employment initiative, a range of new elements were announced to enhance the program. These included 'exploring being my own boss' workshops, aimed at encouraging people to explore whether self-employment would be right for them, with 1,000 workshop places available each year plus an additional 2,300 places made available each year to provide more opportunities. Eligibility to access the program was also broadened to allow people not on income support to access services. This was the first time the scheme was available to people that were not jobseekers on income support. However, people that were not in receipt of income support were not eligible to access the allowance. That allowance is equivalent to the single 22-or-over no-children rate of JobSeeker payment, which is $642.70 per fortnight. Entrepreneurship Facilitators focused on youth and the mature aged were also introduced in areas of high youth and mature-age unemployment.
In 2016, the high-disadvantage trial began, targeting a range of disadvantaged cohorts, including migrants, people with disabilities and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Six hundred places were allocated to providers to deliver these services. In 2018, the high-disadvantage trial was amended to focus on assisting migrants and refugees with NEIS providers, and they were able to access these places on an as-needed basis. Feedback from the trial indicated participants found that flexible training much better suited their needs. They valued the increased mentoring and coaching to develop business plans and started operating businesses.
In 2020, eligibility to access the scheme was amended to support part-time businesses to assist those with caring responsibilities or working part time. Microbusinesses impacted by COVID-19 were also able to access support to pivot their business to remain viable.
From 1 July 2021, veterans transitioning out of the Australian Defence Force were able to access workshops and commence NEIS training while still in the ADF to explore self-employment while still employed. Strong demand emerged during COVID-19, with fewer traditional jobs available. Many jobseekers sought to create their own job by starting a new small business. Additional places for the NEIS program were made available to recognise this demand. Running alongside this is the Entrepreneurship Facilitators program, which compliments the Self-Employment Assistance program by promoting self-employment. It helped people to start and run their own business by providing information and advice, and by referring people to appropriate support services, including self-employment assistance providers. As of July this year, the Self-Employment Assistance program effectively replaces the NEIS and builds on its success through additional and more-tailored services that allow participants to choose what support they need for their small business.
This Self-Employment Assistance, or SEA, program commenced in all 51 employment regions across Australia and is a larger and revised version of the NEIS. It retains the successful components of NEIS while making small changes to small business and entrepreneurship services to make them more flexible and easier for jobseekers exiting and for microbusiness owners to access.
The bill we are considering, the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Self-Employment Programs and Other Measures) Bill 2022 amends the social security law and related elements of the veterans and the family laws. It is designed to make it clear that the law operates in the same way when participants access self-employment through services through the Self-Employment Assistance program.
The SEA initiative aims to promote self-employment through a range of activities, including microbusiness courses, business planning, business advice and business health checks. New program features include idea generation and an introduction to self-employment workshops, an increased number of eligible participants and a range of flexible services. Self-employment assistance includes additional individual support components such as business plan development, business advice sessions and business health checks. Overall, Self-Employment Assistance is a more flexible and tailored program and allows participants to access the service components in any order, based on their individual needs.
Providers also need to ensure that their services are accessible to all participants, including those with poor digital literacy, those from CALD backgrounds and those without access to appropriate technology and information. So people who may have experienced barriers to entrepreneurship in the past can now engage in the scheme through a wider range of services. This builds on the flexibilities that were recently introduced which allow individuals with part-time employment, education or caring responsibilities to access effective small business support.
The changes made to the scheme recognise the changing nature of small business ownership in Australia by giving participants, including individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds, greater flexibility in choosing which support they need to start and run their business, how they can access it and when they receive it. It is intended that the micro-enterprises will receive services that are more flexible and authentic. In this changing and often unpredictable economic environment, eligible business owners who have recently started trading or who need help to adapt their business can access appropriate business mentoring and advice.
As was the case under the NEIS, eligible income support recipients who access the program can receive a self-employment allowance from the government. This helps supplement the income a participant earns from their business so they can reinvest their business earnings in the business. Self-Employment Assistance is building on the NEIS's legacy of success by continuing its valuable support, but through more flexible services that help a wider range of people secure their future.
We know this program works. NEIS has achieved excellent results from a diverse range of participants who have accessed its services. Three months after exiting the program, 82 per cent of participants remained in employment, and 68 per cent were still running their business. And it supported women's economic security, with more than half of the participants who accessed NEIS over the past seven years being women.
Recently we've also seen a clear demonstration that the government can play a key role in helping businesses adapt in uncertain times. Since the onset of COVID, the NEIS has helped many businesses pivot to deliver services in new and innovative ways to remain viable.
This bill will update the social security, veterans and family laws to make it clear that the Self-Employment Assistance payments will be treated in the same way by the law as any other NEIS payment. The same will apply if the Employment secretary ever notifies of a different name for Self-Employment Assistance. The bill will therefore provide increased clarity for participants as they support themselves by establishing the businesses.
Just one example of many exciting outcomes of the scheme is The Mountain Experience abseiling and rock climbing adventures based at Mount Wellington in Tasmania. After 10 years of working for other people as a tour guide and rock climber—