BILLS Business Names Registration Application of Consequential Amendments Bill 2011 Second Reading

Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (10:19): If will start with a startling claim: I often enjoy listening to the speeches from the member for Dunkley. I would enjoy them more if they had some connection to reality. We did have a number of spurious claims that were being made in that contribution, which started well and then just diverted into a direct lift out of 'Conspiracy News dotcom', making all sorts of suggestions about whether or not we had taken a position that was opposed to the role of independent contractors in the small-business sector. For a lot of these small businesses it has been liberating to be able to have the opportunity to set their own businesses up and control the way they operate in our modern economy. We have been strong supporters of providing the means and the wherewithal for independent contractors to exist. These contractors had a hard enough time—given that those opposite, when in government, refused to provide the proper and adequate support to the Trade Practices Act in dealing with a range of different issues, from creeping acquisitions through to predatory pricing. Predatory pricing in particular is of deep concern to small business but was not acted upon by the other side.

They talk about support for small business but they introduced the GST. This is something that even today causes small businesses to scratch their heads in frustration—MYOB, putting in the BAS statements and the red tape that comes with it. That was brought upon them by that side of politics, which claims it has the interests of small business at heart. They talk about IP issues, for example. I actually agree with the member for Dunkley. I think IP issues are a big way multinationals try to stifle the creativity of small Australian firms. It is a serious issue, but it is not something that has cropped up overnight.

In fact, I recall that a small business in New South Wales, my home state, was being pursued by a US firm over, of all things, a claim to patent the name 'Ugg Boot', which we are all familiar with; we know it is an Australian icon, and it has taken off, particularly in the US. This firm had attempted to muscle out a New South Wales business by using the patent system or the trading system to force them out of using the name. This occurred during the period of the Howard government in which representations had been made to IP Australia to move quickly on this and deal with it. They had the power to fix this, but they did not. Again, they failed to stand up for small business, which they claim is their bread-and-butter constituency. They failed to stand up for them on trade practices, they failed to stand up for them on red tape and they failed to stand up for them on trademarks and patents.

This week we have seen, as a result of late consideration by the parliament—into about three o'clock this morning—11 bills passed to give effect to the minerals resource rent tax. This will provide 2.7 million businesses with a huge shot in the arm—a $6,500 instant tax write-off. A few weeks ago I conducted 10 mobile offices in my electorate of Chifley. I went out and took the opportunity to speak to small businesses, to ask them how they were going and what they were facing. And they were interested to know what was being done for them. It is with huge pride that I can say that, as a result of a significant reform in the form of the minerals resource rent tax, the wealth under the ground that is owned by Australians is going to be shared above ground. These arrangements not only will mean a great deal to the other side of the country but will also benefit businesses across the eastern seaboard and across all parts of this country. It is a big deal.

For example, a cafe owner told me that when his refrigerated sandwich bar broke down he was faced with a choice: either find $5,000 out of his own funds or try to claim it from insurance. The prospect of increased premiums was something he did not cherish, and he had to pay out of his own funds to deal with that repair. These are the types of things small businesses will be able to get assistance with from 1 July next year as a result of the deliberations of the parliament last night and the moves made by this government to ensure that the benefits of the mining boom spread.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Perhaps I could draw to the attention of the Government Whip that we are not debating the bills that were voted on earlier this morning. We are in fact debating the Business Names Registration (Application of Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011.

Mr HUSIC: We were not, actually.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Consequential amendments.

Mr HUSIC: At any rate, I certainly accept what has been said. I am proud of the things we have done for small business, and this reform, Mr Deputy Speaker, is another element of that reform process. We have a multiplicity of registration systems within this country and we are trying to ensure that there is a uniform system in place. I am particularly pleased about the involvement of ASIC and having registration and oversight through ASIC. That is an important measure that gives a great degree of confidence to small business.

I referred earlier to independent contractors and small businesses that set up, particularly in this day and age where there is a lot more freedom for people to do that. Importantly, as a result of what we are doing in another reform, the National Broadband Network, people will be able to trade in other parts of the country and the world more easily, but they will not want to wade through the red tape of business registration. We have made that uniform.

I certainly commend the states that have worked with the federal government. As the parliamentary secretary indicated earlier, there needs to be a referral process. These powers do not exist themselves in the hands of the federal government so it did require cooperative federalism to ensure that, as the parliamentary secretary said in his second reading speech, by May next year this system will take effect.

The amendments before the House will ensure that, as a result of the broader legislation which gives effect to these reforms and which was passed in October this year, when the system does kick in things will be harmonised and start at the same time. It is a common-sense proposition that, if you trade in this country, particularly with the ability to trade across borders and being able to reach out and collaborate with people in different parts of the country, you should not have to wade through paperwork in order to set up your business elsewhere. I am sure that small businesses will welcome the fact that they will be able to set up small business concerns and know that in one part of the country the process will be the same as exists in the other parts.

Tasmania and New South Wales have already signed up and other states will be ready to sign up by March. By May this system will kick in and will provide tangible benefits to small business. It is a demonstration of how cooperative federalism can deliver in a significant way for the economy. I commend this very sensible set of amendments and the overall reform. If you will excuse my enthusiasm, Mr Deputy Speaker, I think a lot of good things are being done for small business in this country by this government. This is another step along that path and I certainly commend the legislation to the House.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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