Small businesses in Rankin

01 June 2015

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (11:56):  Next month, the Logan Chamber of Commerce will be holding the 2015 Business Distinction Awards in my community. I am proud to sponsor the emerging business category. I want to thank the chamber—Bill Richards and his team—for the opportunity to be part of the awards and for all the other opportunities I have had to spend time with them at their networking breakfasts. I want to work with our small businesses and I want to celebrate their success. The sum total of their efforts, right around the country, will determine whether we can build a nation powered by aspiration and enterprise. I am pleased to speak today on the motion moved by the member for Mallee in support of small business. I am particularly pleased to follow the contributions from the member for Parramatta and the member for Oxley, who is here in the chamber.

I am very proud to represent 10,746 small businesses. They are extremely important for the local economy in my area as a source of employment, goods and services. More than 60 per cent of them are sole traders. The other 4,059 of them employ between one and 19 workers. They are a much-needed source of jobs in my area when jobs not particularly easy to come by. The types of goods and services they produce and provide are incredibly important to our area as well.

In my experience, when we think about small businesses, we often think about retailers: restaurants, small shops, hairdressers and the like. Certainly, I have thousands of fantastic small retailers in my electorate. They are a crucial part of our everyday lives in my community, but they are not the most numerous type of small business in my area. That distinction belongs to the construction industry. Every fifth small business in my community is involved in construction. They are the plumbers, builders, electricians, plasterers and labourers who do such important work. The construction industry is closely followed by the 1,100 businesses in transport, postage and warehousing; the 1,073 scientific and technical small businesses; and 1,024 real estate and rental businesses.

Small business owners in my community and right around the country face some really substantial challenges. As other speakers have noted, it is a brave and often risky decision to go out on your own to start a small business. They face higher fixed costs and greater financing difficulties and are more affected by fluctuations in demand than larger businesses are.

These risk-takers are critically important for our economy, not only for employment and production, but also for innovation. Eighty-five per cent of innovative firms are small businesses, according to the ABS. We need to support them. We need to help foster employment, production and innovation in my community and in the broader national economy.

As other speakers have mentioned, Labor has a very proud track record of supporting small businesses. We appointed a national Small Business Commissioner, simplified asset depreciation rules and worked towards a seamless national economy. Most importantly, we introduced the first instant asset tax write-off, which the government abolished in last year's budget and then re-introduced in this year's budget. It is a fact, and not an opinion, that business confidence plummeted in the wake of last year's budget. While this has rebounded somewhat, after the government re-implemented some of Labor's policy, including the instant asset write-off, small business in Australia still cannot trust this government to provide the policy consistency they need to make important decisions. They know that the coalition's instant asset write-off is little more than an election ploy. That is why instead of it being a permanent scheme, like Labor's was, theirs is only in effect for two years.

We support the government's changes, knowing that they do not go far enough to make up for last year's attacks or to give small businesses the support they really need. That is why we want to work towards a tax rate of 25 per cent for small businesses, and why we will establish a start-up scheme to provide capital for new entrepreneurs. I will continue to advocate for small businesses in this place, because we know how important they are to the national economy, and in the local economy in communities like mine.