Bill's Speeches

TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (SMALL BUSINESS MEASURES NO. 1) BILL 2015

SPEECH TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (SMALL BUSINESS MEASURES NO. 1) BILL 2015

 

 

WEDNESDAY, 3 JUNE 2015

 

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Thank you very much.
I can assure the Member for Ryan just as we’ve been saying since Budget night, when our Shadow Treasurer said it, we are supporting this Bill.

What a lot of hypocrisy from the Government, saying that somehow there is a question mark over it. We have said we will support it time and time again.
What cheap politics from the Member for Ryan, when normally, she sometimes doesn’t engage in that.

Now we believe in small business on the Labor side. We certainly do. We understand there is $330 billion it contributes to the economy annually.

It delivers 47 per cent of the private sector jobs in Australia.

It is vital for small businesses that they have confidence.

We would never do anything to jeopardise this, and shame on the Government and its speakers who have pretended otherwise for the last 22 days.

Labor, and indeed Australians, are sick of being patronised by this government. They’ve never seen a policy issue that they do not reduce to politics.

The Australian people are not the mugs that the government take them for.

We are in the middle of the biggest transition we have seen in our recent economic history, from the mining investment to non-mining investment.

We have no time to waste on games in this nation, and to watch this government flounder around since the Budget trying to score points when in fact we are all on the same side just shows you how poor the government are at this matter.
Let's forget the rhetoric. Let's put the facts on the record.

I, like most Australians, cringe when Tony Abbott says he is the ‘best friend’ of someone. When he says he is the best friend of small business, I know what Tony Abbott's best friends think.
I am reminded of that Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, who famously painted The Scream. When Tony Abbott says he is someone's best friend, I think of the person in that painting.
He says he is the best friend of Medicare. Thanks for the GP tax, mate!
He says he is the best friend of pensioners. Thanks for cutting the indexation rate, mate!
Then he says he is the best friend of superannuation.
Not once, not twice, but three times this government has tampered with the increase to superannuation, and it freezes it for many, many years for Australians, which means that Australian workers will be $983 billion worse off over the next 40 years.

Almost $1 trillion in savings denied to Australians because Tony Abbott is their ‘best friend’.
And, of course, he has abolished the tax relief to 3 and a half million Australians. He will fight to the last ounce of his energy to defend a few thousand people, getting a 45 cent tax concession who already have multiple millions of dollars.
He says he will never, ever change that, but, when it comes to supporting three and half million people with a tax refund on their superannuation contribution, well Tony Abbott is not their best friend.

But, of course, when he says he is the best friend of small business, I would submit that that is false and misleading conduct, almost in breach of the Trade Practices Act, and to prove that, you only have to ask working women.
Remember, he was going to be the best friend that working women have ever had. Remember what he said: that he believes he is the best friend of women of calibre. Whatever happened to that commitment?

Now it’s not just their rhetoric which makes us suspicious about small business and what they are doing for small business - we look at the Liberals' record.
When they came to office, they said there would be a $3.8 billion cut. They not only said it, they did it.

A $3.8 billion cut to small business. That is right: $3.8 billion taken away from small business.
They abolished the tax loss carry-back provisions, they abandoned the special depreciation rules for motor vehicles and they unwound instant asset write-off, a point I will come back to again, they unwound instant asset write-off.

In the 2014 budget, they followed up on their mugging of small business when they came to power with an $845 million cut to industry and small business programs, successful improvement programs like Commercialisation Australia, Enterprise Solutions and Enterprise Connect.

But they were not content to stop there, these vandals; they went after the ‘Tools For Your Trade’ program.

A billion dollars in support for apprentices, gone in the blink of an eye; another billion dollars’ worth of skills and training programs gone.
They even managed to go after the Joint Group Training program, which helps small and medium businesses find and retain apprentices.

And then furthermore, not content with what they did in 2014, not content with the $3.8 billion in cuts to small business that they have abandoned since they came into power, now they are actually proposing to do a petrol tax with the Greens, with the Greens.

We’ve listened to lectures from the Government when they were in opposition— sanctimonious lectures and this government has certainly got the monopoly on sanctimony, and they said 'how could anyone ever work with the Greens?'

Remember there was a Tony Abbott promise? I know what they are worth, but he did actually say for the record, that he would never do deals with the Greens.
Now we can see the petrol tax coming in to slug small business doing a dirty deal with the Greens to lock it in.
Well done, Tony Abbott. At least we know you are consistent in your inconsistency.

But the bigger issue is not just that their rhetoric does not match the reality of what they have done; it is what they are actually doing to the economy.
For a year—you can almost date it; you can carbon date it from three weeks before the 2014 Budget—they have suffocated confidence in this economy.

They have suffocated and smothered confidence for more than a year.
They have doubled the deficit between their last Budget and this Budget. In the time that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have been in charge of the nation's finances, between the 2014 Budget and the 2015 Budget, they have doubled the deficit.
They have doubled the deficit.
And what they’ve done also is add 17 new taxes, 17 new taxes and doubled the deficit.

Australians knew about the mining boom easing off. Australians understand that the rise of Asia provides opportunities for us. But Australians never saw the government coming at them to wreck their confidence in 2014.
In 2014, this government vandalised, damaged, wrecked and mugged confidence in the Australian economy.

We have stopped the harm being worse, because of our strength in opposition to their unfair measures, but the issue now is that these changes to small business are a recognition that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer—and, indeed, the whole of the frontbench, including the minister at the table, have mugged Australians with their changes.
Now they are putting a couple of band-aids on. They are trying to bandage up the damage to confidence they have done.

The reason why Labor is supporting the small business package is that, for us, everything is about jobs.

What motivates the Labor team that I lead is jobs.
We are interested in the jobs that people currently have and in people keeping their jobs.

We are interested in jobs for the future.
The biggest, massive failure of the government, and there is much competition for that title, is unemployment.
Joe Hockey said, in that sort of poor man's Hamlet style he likes to affect in question time, he said 'woe is me, woe is me’ he says. ‘I wish I inherited an economy where unemployment had a four in front of it.'

Well, Joe, Labor, having helped Australia get through the GFC, working with a lot of people, we gave you the next best thing. You got unemployment with a five in front of it—and what have you done since you took over? You have put a six in front of it, Joe Hockey. Woe is Australia, that we have you as our Treasurer. Unemployment since September 2013 has gone up, up and up again. Unemployment is the highest it has been in 12 years.
The significance of 12 years, other than it is a terribly long period of time since unemployment has gone up this high.
What is also the significance of that is that the Minister for Employment when unemployment was this high, was none other than Tony Abbott. He is back to the scene of the accident.

Unemployment in this country is now higher than at any time during the global financial crisis, that is right.

Australia had to navigate the global financial crisis.
Many other countries did it very hard, and Australia did do it hard, but, because of the excellent leadership of the then Labor government and the decisions they made then, unemployment did not hit the levels it has hit under this current bunch of ne'er-do-wells.

There are 130 people every day joining the back of the unemployment queue under the Liberal government.

What we know when you get a Liberal government is that you get longer unemployment queues—that is what you get.
There is record youth unemployment in the regions and the outer suburbs of our big cities. It will take a lot more than this small business package to fix it up.

Let me talk a little about the legislation. This legislation, which we are supporting, has a very familiar feel to it.
A tax cut for small business—that is a good idea.

Labor proposed it, but, when you were in opposition, you opposed it. And they did it with the Greens too.

Then, of course, we proposed the instant asset write-off. Labor proposed it, Labor delivered it and then, when the Liberals came into power, you undid it.
Two years later, you realised what a terrible mistake you made and you have come crawling back to the people of Australia, actually you have not admitted any mistake.

Not a hint of contrition, not a hint of repentance, not a mea culpa, not even a modest admission that maybe Labor had the right idea with the instant asset write-off.

Not a moment, in the arrogance of this Government, do they ever, ever say, because they are so blinded by their own born-to-rule mentality that, whenever Labor has an idea and the Liberals have rolled it back, when they’ve realised they actually had to do it, do we even got a bit of modest acknowledgement that maybe the people sitting opposite, the leakers of their own national security debates—do we ever get the minimum modicum admission— that maybe they’re not the repository of all knowledge in this nation, because of course they are not.

Of course though, how quickly they forget the changes which we introduced with the instant asset write-off.

I have a little fact from Tony Abbott's little book of commitments.
Actually, this is his long book of commitments; the shorter book, the sequel, is the book of promises that he keeps—that is a short book.
When it was Labor policy, did Tony Abbott ever utter the words 'instant asset write-off'? Did he ever utter the words, just once?

In the desert of Tony Abbott's contributions in opposition, did he ever utter once the words 'instant asset write-off'? The answer is nope. Nope, nope, nope.

In the 22 days since the Budget, he has said it 36 times.

As Tony Abbott understands, there is no zealot like the convert. Except of course when it comes to paid parental leave, then he's a backsliding convert.

Now of course it is not just the Prime Minister who is guilty of hypocrisy when it comes to small business among the members opposite.

I actually have here the words of Bruce Billson, the ubiquitous Minister for Small Business.

He issued a media release on 17 July 2012—of course, that was then and this is now, but what he said then, and I quote directly from the mouth of Bruce Billson, was: “cash-strapped small businesses won't be able to take advantage of an increase in the instant asset write-off because they don't have spare cash lying around to pay for an asset in the first place”. Another intellectual zinger from the Member for Dunkley.

Then of course though, Bruce Billson, keen to return to the scene of this matter again, because he was consistent between 17 July 2012 and again he has had a bit of a foray into this issue of bagging instant asset write-off on the date he said it at a doorstop. You might be forgiven for thinking, 'did he say before the last election or after the last election?' Because now this is a Government of converts to instant asset write-off.
He actually said this on 6 November 2013: 'some of the instant asset write-off arrangements were sold as if they were great for cash-strapped small businesses, but you need the cash to start with to make the purchase.'
So there we have it, Billson the apostle, who is actually Billson-we-don't-know-quite-what-he-thinks. We don't know what he thinks, but when Labor thinks it he certainly doesn't agree with that!

But, to be fair to Bruce Billson, his intellectual thought-leader Joe Hockey did say on ABC News breakfast on 11 July 2011.

Joe Hockey said: 'These guys [small business] are not buying assets.'

The presenter said: 'You just made a statement about small business not getting a zac. I am simply saying that the small business asset write-off has increased. Do you concede that?'

That is pretty straightforward factual question—not a lot of wriggle room. But these guys never need a lot of wriggle room not to answer a question.

Joe Hockey's answer: 'Only if you buy the asset.' Well, that is true, Joe! The lights were on that day!

But he goes on: 'If you don't buy an asset for a year, you ‘re not getting a zac'—again, reinforcing his first point. He then says: 'if you've already bought a million-dollar refrigerator, what are you going to get from this?'

Well, to begin with, he couldn't get the million-dollar refrigerator under this deal either. 'You don't replace a refrigerator for three, four or five years.' Thanks, Joe.

The point about all of this is that the nation and the government are entitled to be reminded of the stubborn ideology, the bleak oppositionist mentality, which runs this country.
There is a very small heart lurking in the very large body of this government. Whenever Labor has an idea, these people attack.
They do not listen; they just attack. And of course the minister at the table would not be prone to that, would he? I've got a bridge to sell you, if you believe that.

Now of course, Labor could take the same attitude that the Liberals took in opposition. We could give them a taste of their own medicine. And we don't like to talk about medicine, do we, Minister at the table? That would remind us of health!

But the reality is: Labor is actually better. We understand that all the political points to be made aside, we think that the period that Tony Abbott was opposition leader was one of the bleakest periods of this nation.

We are different in opposition to Tony Abbott and his team when they were in opposition. We are cut from a different cloth.

We will judge these measures on small business not by the puerile point-scoring we have seen over the last 22 days where the government engages in some sort of existential angst: 'Will they? Won't they?', when we have already said we will.
We are not the people that this government are. Labor is not into hating people who disagree with them. We are not into bullying the people with their policy simply think that they actually have an idea which is worth backing in.

Nor do we have, Peter Dutton, the born-to-rule mentality totally undeserved by these people opposite. We want to help grow the economy. We want to help grow the economy and we want to help grow jobs.
But I have to sound a note of caution about this legislation. We will vote for this package, we most certainly will vote for this package, especially the increased instant asset write-off.
But we do so trusting that this government has done its homework, in between leaking on each other on national security matters. We trust that this government has done its homework.

We trust that the plan will be properly implemented and directed for the purpose intended.
We know that, on budget night when they make this announcement, they forgot primary producers and farmers and have already had to subsequently update what they are saying to include them.
But we also hope that the ATO has the resources and powers they need to make sure the compliance standards are met.
We do not want honest, hardworking small businesses to miss out because there are some flaws in the scheme which allow some people to rort the scheme for purposes other than those for which it was designed.

I say to Joe Hockey and to Tony Abbott: I hope you enjoy your road trip to the Harvey Normans and second-hand car yards across Australia, trying to find the confidence that you lost last year.
These two remind me a little bit of Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels from that road trip film…what was it called again? Dumb and Dumber!
But I hope that, as they are making a road trip, I hope that they make sure there are no unintended consequences from the implementation of this scheme, which doesn’t see taxpayers' money squandered in a desperate bid by these two on their road trip to find some votes to save their jobs.

But while we are here and we are talking about helping small business, I repeat my invitation from the Budget in-Reply speech: let us work together to reduce the tax rate for small business. Not just give a one and a half per cent cut but a five per cent cut.
We understand that there is no way that Labor can do this without the agreement of the government. We understand it can take more than the life of one parliament.
But I do think in the spirit of bipartisanship, that we need to keep talking about how we help small business. In helping small business, there is a proposal on the table.
We listen to Joe Hockey come into parliament in question time every day and complain about how hard his job is. We listen to Tony Abbott pretty much 30 seconds into any answer say, 'well, can you give us the answers, because we've run out of the answers.' But what we do say is, perhaps you could make multinationals pay their fair share.
While you are talking to the cafés, the newsagencies and Harvey Norman franchises, while you are getting out talking to florists and subbies and drycleaners and the chemists; maybe what we need to be doing is explaining to them why they pay more tax than James Hardie.
But of course, when we proposed a measure to tackle foreign multinationals in terms of making them pay their fair share, what was the response we got from the government as soon as we said it?

There is nothing like that Pavlovian, knee jerk, negative response: 'if Labor says it, we're against it.'

This country needs better from its politicians than the Government always rejecting every idea that Labor has.
See we’re prepared, when the Government has a good idea, to back it in.

But the people opposite, including the minister at the table, I have never seen them say anything good about the Labor Party—and that is because they live in a world where politics is more important than policy, and where hate division are more important than uniting this country and bringing people together.

Labor has a plan for the future.

And it’s not the Government's love of a bit of self-promotion—I mean the Government do love their self-promotion.
At least when they do it themselves, it is cheaper than tricking poor old Dr Karl into doing it for them.
But the idea that this small business package will be the panacea for every economic challenge that Australia faces right now.

The notion that over the next two years a $5 billion temporary stimulus will be enough to replace $100 billion contraction in investment due to the wind down of investment in the mining industry—it just does not stack up.

A deposit of tax payer money into the Australian economy of $5 billion to replace a $100 billion contraction in investment really misses the big story of Australia.

The Budget missed the chance to give us a long term plan. It was just a plan to save the jobs of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.
What we really needed in that Budget was a plan beyond the mining boom—a plan for the next decade, a plan for the long run.
There is no doubt that Australians are disenchanted with politics, but this government gives them no hope. We all understand about this Budget, and deep in their hearts the Government understands this too.

The 2015 Budget was not designed to last 12 months. It is a Budget sticky-taped together to try and boost confidence in small business, which has been damaged by the actions of this Government over the last years.
But it has been sticky-taped, band-aided and rubber banded together; it will not last 12 months.

We see that the big questions for the future are not being addressed by the Government, and that there is no economic plan. No wonder Australians are confused about this government.
In 2014, the Government said that there was a debt and deficit crisis—we were drowning in a debt and deficit crisis and this year, there is more cash to splash around than people have seen in a long time.
This government is inconsistent. They are political chameleons. Chameleons, in nature, stand and take the colour and they camouflage themselves in the environment that they’re in.

In 2014, the Tony Abbott chameleons camouflaged themselves in the rhetoric of economic austerity. They were going to sort things out, the debt and deficit crisis.
But now, in 2015, the chameleons have taken a different approach. They are trying to pretend that they are economically fair.
Tony Abbott doesn’t understand that fairness isn’t a name that you can just buy, you know, a domain name you can just buy on the internet. It has to be something that you believe in every day.

So when we talk about the future, we understand that Australians expect more and deserve more from their government.
They want a plan for long term confidence and sustainability; a plan to accelerate jobs growth and encourage business investment.

They want a plan to unlock our cities and towns. They want to see support for public transport. They want to see a cut down in the hours that Australians are spending commuting to and from home.

They want a plan to equip our children. They want a plan to equip our adults in retraining with the skills and the knowledge to seize and create the opportunities of the new economy.
This means, as Labor has said, more children studying coding and computation thinking in primary school—and no, Tony Abbott, studying coding and computational thinking in primary school does not mean you go to work when you are 11.

We want to see more confident, skilled and inspiring science teachers in our secondary schools. We want to see more Australians—more women—enrolled in engineering in uni, or technology at TAFE.
We want to create a culture of innovation and risk-taking.
We don’t want this country dumbed down to the Liberal three word slogans. We want to encourage Australians to turn their good ideas into great businesses.
We want a smarter, more productive, competitive workforce for all employers, and we certainly want to fund our innovative small businesses. We want to see support for Australian's start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators.

Labor will create a $500 million smart investment fund to back in great Australian ideas.
The smart investment fund will partner with venture capitalists and fund managers investing in early stage and high potential companies. It is a model with a definitive, proven track record of success.
We have created jobs, and growth, and innovation before. Australia can do it again.

Australians want more from their government than this bleak vision of just unfairness rebadged, dodging the big issues in the taxation system, just supporting small business without a long term plan to build confidence, to deal with the skills and the infrastructure of the future.

And because we back small business, we will also work with the banks and the finance industry to help establish a partial guarantee scheme, Start-Up Finance, to help more Australians convert their great ideas into good businesses.
We will enable entrepreneurs to access the capital they need to start and grow their enterprise. And before we hear the standard government knee-jerk reaction 'no, no, no' to this, please have a look at what the UK, the US, Germany, France and Hong Kong do; before you do what you are so good at doing  which is a kneejerk, negative reaction.

Start-ups and innovators will drive growth and create jobs. We take responsibility on the Labor side for supporting our next generation of designers and refiners, manufacturers and creators.

Every day since the Budget, the Government has come into this place and demanded that we vote for legislation that they haven’t even moved yet.
Six times, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister have stood at the despatch box and urged us to vote for a bill that they had not even brought into the House.

We made it clear on election night. Chris Bowen on television, me the next morning, I bumped into Tony Abbott in one of those awkward moments at the ABC that you have.

I said I didn’t like what he was doing on health and education—and who does, let's face it—but I said  small business looked good.

We said it again in the Budget reply, and we have said it every day since.

But do you think this government, they’re so addicted to trying to create divisions in this community.
They want small business to not like Labor, even though we are supporting small business. They are so determined to divide this country. They have no capacity to unite this country.
They are people addicted to the view that there are good people and bad people, and they are constantly adding to the list of bad people.
So we say to the government, and I say to Tony Abbott, enough is enough. Enough playing of the silly political games which are your trademark.

We are not going to delay this legislation for one minute longer.

We were always going to vote for it.

We always said we would support it.

Let's get on with it.

And therefore, this is why, I move that the question be put.

ENDS

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