Consideration in Detail - Small and Family Business

Consideration in Detail 

Federation Chamber

Watch Matt's speech here 

Mr KEOGH (Burt) (18:19): You would think, listening to the rhetoric that we've been hearing from the government, that they are the party of small business, but what we find is that their policies in no way actually reflect that. In fact, when we look at it, the Liberal Party, this government, are really just the party of big business. One of the great examples I can point to straightaway—and I do thank the member for Forde for drawing this to the Chamber's attention—is the importance of finance as the lifeblood of small business. Finance is critically important, but what is the track record of this government? The track record of this government was running a protection racket for the big banks, who were in no way helping small business to grow, to get ahead or to get access to finance in the first place. Let's dive further into what's actually happening for small business under this government.

One of the consequences of the anaemic wage growth that we're seeing under this government is that there's no money flowing into the small businesses around Australia. What they need is for Australians to be in a position to actually spend. That will be the key driver for growth in small business in Australia. But, no, they can't, because Australians' incomes are being strangled by the way in which the government is running the economy. When it comes to the critical thing that will enable small business to grow and thrive in Australia, it is the old Clinton adage: 'It's the economy, stupid.' This government is killing it. But there are a few other issues we need to address.

When we look at small business, as it comes under this portfolio, there is a big glaring problem. It's the jobactive system. The purpose of jobactive is not only to be able to get people into jobs—and I can tell you right now that we need to help Australians get into work, especially in my electorate of Burt—it's for small businesses who want to grow to be able to find those people to put into their businesses. Jobactive is failing on both fronts. It's failing to get people into work and it's failing to provide the small businesses that want to grow with the workforce that they could use to grow. When you look at the name of this department and this portfolio you would think if there was one thing they would be doing it would be helping people get into employment through small business, but, critically, this is where we are seeing this government fail.

Since taking on the role of shadow minister assisting for small and family business, I've had the pleasure of being able to work with the shadow minister for small and family business in holding a number of listening tour events around the country, listening to small and family businesses about what they want government to do, what they think would make a critical difference for them, because we understand that it's important to listen. And that's what we have been doing. I've been to the Central Coast of New South Wales. I've been to Melbourne. I know the shadow minister has been down to Hobart and up to Darwin. We're going to continue to move around and listen to small business.

One of the things they have been raising with us frequently, and an area where they struggle sometimes, is their capacity around business administration and how it would be helpful for them to have greater assistance and guidance, either in setting up a business or continuing to meet the administrative burdens of running a business. It is interesting how these small businesses have struggled to find good information. In fact, we've also heard accountants who support these small businesses saying, 'We find it odd that some people are starting these businesses without getting the proper advice first, and no-one seems to have pointed out these problems to them beforehand.' People are telling us they want better information and better guidance. There are a number of different ways in which this could happen, but they're not seeing it on the ground.

Even the small business ombudsman has pointed out, in respect of franchisees, that it's vitally important that potential franchisees know what they're getting into before signing off on the agreement. While that's about franchisees, it reflects something that is happening across small business. When we look at the budget papers, outcome 2, small business support, talks about providing these sort of supports. This is what the government says it should be doing, but clearly it's not. I met people who didn't even know business.gov.au existed. How on earth are they going to be able to access the meagre services the government's providing if the government's not even telling them where to find this information? Critically, I ask the minister representing the portfolio minister: what is government going to do? What is government going to do to make sure that not only does it help small business but it helps them find out how they can actually be helped and meets what it says it's going to do in its own budget?