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Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (12.57 p.m.)—Nowhere is small business more important than in regional and rural Australia, where small businesses comprise the majority of businesses.

As it is in Australia, 96 per cent of all businesses are small businesses. It is estimated that 39 per cent of Australia’s economic production is generated by the small business sector. Small businesses are vital to Australia’s economy. In the 2005-06 financial year, there was a net growth of 25,753 small businesses. This sector is very large, important and significant. The current government has made substantial changes, for instance to the Trade Practices Act, to allow small businesses to compete more fairly against large businesses. The Trade Practices Act amendments are very significant and must be continually monitored because small business can come under threat of large business acting in an unconscionable manner. Some of the amendments to the Trade Practices Act deal with strengthening the operation to allow small business to compete more effectively.
The proposed amendments to section 46 of the Trade Practices Act will give courts a clear escape to determine the misuse of power, including predatory pricing by large businesses. Also, we have allowed small businesses—whether they be trucking businesses or farmers—to group together to make a claim against or to negotiate with large businesses for the terms and conditions under which they will sell or supply goods. For instance, recent changes in the budget to capital gains tax giving concessions to small businesses to grow and prosper have been welcomed by small business—that is, a capacity to pass on the benefits of the work and the goodwill of a business to realise it in a fair way.
In addition, there have been changes to and standardisation of the definitions of small business. Put simply, a small business is a business with a turnover of less than $2 million per annum. That applies to the capital gains tax and a whole range of other concessions—the goods and services tax, the filling out of the business activity statement and the fringe benefits tax.
Unlike what the previous speaker, the member for Gorton, said, the workplace reforms have been welcomed by small business. Where has the growth, represented by over 200,000 additional jobs, and touching on another 300,000 jobs, come from, if not from the small business sector? Small business is now living without fear of reprisal and of having to pay $10,000 a head for employees who make claims for go-away money. That was the situation in the past. Time and again, a claim for payment of go-away money was nothing but a try-on. The protection of basic employee rights is still there in small business. Whether it is in the area of discrimination, long service leave or a range of other factors, those protections are still in place, by law, and universally—including with respect to the payment of superannuation. The principles that ensure safety in employment are there, but the unfair dismissal aspect for small businesses has been removed. This has been welcomed by employers and employees alike.
There has been a change to simplification processes. The threshold for cash accounting processes that businesses can use has been lifted from $50,000 to $75,000, and there is a simpler and fairer workplace relations process. The government has moved to provide skilled workers. In June 2005, approximately 391,000 people were engaged in apprenticeships. When this government came to office, there were fewer than half that number. We have doubled the number of effective apprenticeships and traineeships by applying funds and care to that area.
Mr Beazley admitted in 2000 that the Labor Party had never intended to be a small business party, and Mr Rudd made similar statements in 2001. The weekend announcement by the Prime Minister that the Bells Line of Road would be investigated as the site of a new expressway across the Blue Mountains has been welcomed by small business communities in places such as Bathurst, Lithgow and beyond, because they know they will benefit from such a change. Unlike the federal government, there is no vision on the part of the New South Wales government, which has rejected a proposal for a study to establish such a freeway, which would provide access and new opportunities for the people of central western New South Wales. Eric Roozendaal has rejected the proposal. (Time expired)

Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard
Release Date: 28 May 2007


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