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Providing Small Business with Greater Access to Government Contracts
It gives me great pleasure to second this motion. I think what we just heard then from the member for Parramatta was confirmation that the Labor Party has learnt nothing from its six years of dismal failure in small business. We have just heard a recitation of how small business is thriving and how there are no problems in small business. In fact, in six years the only problem with small-business policy under the Labor policy was that these businesses grew to become medium-sized businesses. That is the most outrageous and out-of-touch thing I have heard. The data does not prove it. You can make up any statistics you want to try and prove an argument, but you have just proved how out of touch you are with society.
So I will go to small businesses in Deakin and say, ‘The member for Parramatta thinks small business is thriving,’ and they will say: ‘Oh, yes, that’s the same party that imposed the carbon tax. That’s the same party that voted against the repeal of the carbon tax.’ I am glad we have had that confirmation today. Talking about certainty, I must touch on that point too: six small business ministers in six years. For the member for Parramatta to try and have a straight face while coming out with that guff is absolutely outrageous.
I will go back to the motion, which is an absolutely outstanding motion put forward by the member for Hindmarsh. It is an example of the high priority that this coalition government places on supporting small business—not outrageous rhetoric that we get from those opposite. Small businesses, as the member for Hindmarsh said, are the backbone of our economy, and certainly the backbone of the economy in my electorate of Deakin. Having grown up in a small business family, I am acutely aware of the tremendous opportunities and hardships that life in small business can present for all those involved.
There are over 13,000 small businesses in my electorate of Deakin. The vast majority of them are businesses that, quite frankly, are doing it tough and really go month to month in trying to make ends meet. The figure of 12,000 to 13,000 small businesses per electorate is not particularly unusual to Deakin; it is actually quite representative around the country. Small businesses drive employment, innovation and growth, contributing about one-third of private industry’s contribution to the economy and employing around 4.5 million Australians, or about 43 per cent of private sector employment. Of course, those employment figures were significantly higher under the Howard government when small business represented 53 per cent of private sector employment.
Regrettably, as I have touched on, over the last six years 519,000 jobs were lost in small business. Labor have never prioritised nor understood small business, with their focus primarily on large, unionised corporations. The coalition government has made it clear from the outset that we value small business and have been implementing plans to help rebuild the sector. The Prime Minister commenced by appointing a Minister for Small Business, the Hon. Bruce Billson, and ensuring that he sits in the cabinet. The small business sector can rest assured that Minister Billson is advocating for their needs and interests at the cabinet table.
At the same time, the government moved the small business policy function into Treasury, recognising small business issues should be factored into wider economic policy. These fundamental changes demonstrated a level of respect and appreciation for the small business sector, which has been missing under Labor, and a commitment to restoring business confidence and supporting the sector. But we are changing a lot of the issues surrounding small business. We are making significant changes to improve the life of small business.
Going to the motion, the government has demonstrated its commitment to providing $2.8 million over four years to make it easier for small businesses to do business with government. We have heard about the Commonwealth contract suite for contracts valued under $200,000. We have also implemented a ‘pay on time or pay interest’ policy to ensure that small businesses, where cash flow is so important, are not disadvantaged by slow payment.
We believe that small business have a lot to offer government. We want to be able to access the goods and services that they provide and we want that to increase the competition for government contracts, benefiting taxpayers and government alike. I could talk about numerous other commitments—cutting the carbon tax, the competition policy review and the new Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman—but our time is limited today; so I just conclude by reiterating my strong support for the motion.