Small Business

Today I will speak about my new role as shadow Minister for Small Business and the need for Government to meaningfully engage with our small business community. After my appointment to the portfolio the Minister for Small Business said he was pleased to spar with someone who had small business experience. I assure him I have experience. My husband and I owned and managed an award-winning second generation family business for 17 years and I also worked for a number of years in a small retail business while studying at university. In 2007 I completed the company directors course at the Australian Institute of Company Directors. The approach I bring to this position will be informed not only by my own experiences but also those of other business owners that I have met. I have also gained experience through being a member of a number of boards and committees of local, State and national businesses, business chambers, business enterprise centres, industry groups and women in business organisations. I also bring my perspective as a tourism operator after working with thousands of small businesses delivering tourism around Australia for the past 17 years. I will soon organise a tour around the State to formally consult with many businesses. My experience has been gained not only from my work in the industry but also from the experience of my colleagues, which will inform how I contribute to Labor's policy in this important area. I will also harness the wealth of information gained from research by academics, government agencies and other sources to develop evidence-based approaches to supporting the small business sector. Most importantly, I will consult widely and cooperate with small businesses and stakeholders and will strive to achieve tangible outcomes that will assist the small business community. The small business sector is a community made up of mums and dads, young people newly out of TAFE or university, disrupters and families. There is much debate on how to classify small businesses. Should it be based on revenue, profitability, the number of full-time equivalent employees or the payroll size? We know that small businesses make up 96 per cent of businesses in our economy with 650,000 small businesses operating in New South Wales, which employ approximately half of our workforce. They are small in size but big in number and thus make a significant contribution to our economy. We know what small business is but, more importantly, Government must know what small business wants. The conservatives champion red tape reduction as one of the most important issues for the small business sector and the Liberal-Nationals Government claims it is addressing the red tape burden placed on small businesses with its red tape reduction target. However, many of the measures that have been implemented have not yielded any savings or have not been verified by an independent body as having achieved the claimed outcomes. Any claimed reductions in red tape and costs should be properly and independently verified, particularly those concerning issues of safety or other compliance. We do not want to raise the bar too high so that established small businesses cannot be successful, or set it too low so that disruptive businesses are able to prosper. Soon after I was elected, this Government sought to roll over the payroll tax rebate scheme under the Jobs Action Plan. I was one member in this place who spoke against it but advocated for the Small Business Grant employment incentive scheme, which was passed a month later. My colleagues and I advocated for a measure to help small businesses with small payrolls to employ extra staff. We introduced amendments so that an employer would receive a bonus if the employee was elderly, young, had been unemployed for a long time or lived in a regional area. This grant would have been a boost to small businesses in regional areas such as Maitland where unemployment has been at near-recession levels in the past year. Unfortunately, the Government passed the amendments in the other place but voted against them in this Chamber, which reflects its usual lack of cohesive strategic approach to this sector. In opposition I will hold this Government to account. Labor has backed the decision of the Australian Energy Regulator to cut electricity prices, which will save small businesses up to $500 a year on their electricity bills. We oppose the hikes in TAFE fees that are often laid at the feet of small business owners in the trade and that make it difficult for them to employ apprentices. We want to ensure that the use of subcontractors, which places pressure further down the supply chain, does not impact on small owner operators. Labor took a policy to the 2015 election to support local newagencies by continuing restrictions on the sale of lottery tickets to other than newsagents and small businesses. Our election policy to protect small business also included implementation of the recommendations of the Collins inquiry to protect subcontractors. There is much to do in this portfolio, and I relish the challenges it offers. I look forward to working with the sector to improve outcomes for all our small businesses across the State.

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