Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (15:47): I love hearing conservatives parade their friendship of small business. I love how they pretend that they are such great friends of small business. It always reminds me of that great quote from George W Bush when he lambasted the French for not having a word for ‘entrepreneur’. They always make out they are the best mate of small business, but whenever they are called upon to make a decision in favour of small business, to do something when they are positioned between big business and small business, guess where they go—always for the big interest, never for the small.
Let us go through a litany of key decisions where the opposition when in government was asked to support small business but was nowhere to be seen—MIA. When the GST came in, these people who lecture us about cutting red tape, cutting bureaucracy, consigned all these small businesses to business activity statements—the thing that drives small business nuts. Small businesses still complain about it when I talk with them in the electorate of Chifley.
The member for Hughes went on with his celebrated term ‘ACCC storm-troopers’. He talked about how the ACCC was being given powers to clamp down on prices and gouging that might occur with the introduction of the carbon price. Guess what! Just take the time to review recent history. Go and look at the new tax system and see what happened at the time the GST was introduced. The ACCC was given powers to clamp down on businesses that were attempting to rip off the public and to ensure that the GST was passed through fairly. Your side of politics started it, my friend. Your side of politics did it. It was the right thing to do then just as it is the right thing to do now.
Peter Costello, the former member for Higgins, was given recommendation after recommendation on what he should do to improve the Trade Practices Act, on what should be done to protect small business from things like predatory pricing and things like creeping acquisition.
Mr Craig Kelly interjecting—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hughes has had an opportunity to contribute. He will be somewhat more restrained.
Mr HUSIC: The former Treasurer was given heaps of opportunity to stand up for small business that was being squeezed by creeping acquisition. It was being squeezed by big businesses pricing deliberately in a way to squeeze out small business. Did you ever stand up for small businesses and make TPA reform a priority? No, it took this government to do it. I am proud that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer was heavily involved in the formation of the Australian consumer law, the successor law to the TPA. I am proud of the fact that this government has been involved in championing small business in this way.
The member for Dunkley reached into the MPI vending machine and it was his turn today to get an MPI and talk about small business. The parliamentary secretary and I had to listen to him going on about IP Australia, about patents and about businesses being squeezed by multinationals on patents. Again, this matter has been hanging around for years. Those opposite had a chance to strengthen this and to give teeth to IP Australia. Did they do anything? No, not a zip. In the last month or so we have had the changes to the business names registration act, a great move to ensure that wherever you set up a small business in this country you do not have to wade through paperwork that might be different from state to state, with registration fees that might differ from state to state. We gave strength to the process by including ASIC as the watchdog. We have done all that. It is cooperative federalism at work, and we did it. They never did, but we did—it was done in the last month. And last night we introduced a massive shot in the arm for small business: a $6,500 instant asset tax write-off. That was delivered by a Labor government. It was never, ever given by them and was voted against by them.
They are chopping and changing on policy, one minute saying that they will oppose, for example, the superannuation changes that we have put in, then in the next minute supporting them, and then last night opposing them again. How can small business have any confidence in the member for Dunkley? The member for Dunkley was going around telling us that the world would end because of these changes to superannuation and saying that small business would suffer. Then all of a sudden, without any consultation, the Leader of the Opposition supports the changes to superannuation. What a voice for small business in the frontbench of the opposition when he cannot win on it.
Mr Bradbury: He wasn’t on the phone call either.
Mr HUSIC: Yes, he wasn’t on the phone call; thank you to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer for pointing that out. Again, what a great friend to small business, not even listened to by the Leader of the Opposition, and then they jump and dart round saying what they will do for small business.
They are talking down the super reform. We are creating a pool of funds in the national interest: $500 billion of investment funds that will help the economy, help us grow and help business. We have done that. Superannuation is the big reform to help the economy, but it is opposed by them. Yet again, it is Labor having to step up and provide that.
Mr McCormack: You’re the government!
Mr HUSIC: Absolutely we are the government, and we use our time well in helping small business. You talk, we act. We make the decisions. We act. We help out. You sit and oppose. This is an opposition that does not know what it is going to do. For example, when we were putting through the reforms on climate change, and they had a chance to support us on the Steel Transformation Plan Bill, they said, ‘We’re not going to support that bill because we don’t support anything in what the government is doing on climate change.’ They then said, ‘We don’t support the mining tax,’ but they managed to find support for superannuation. They leave steelworkers and the steel sector hanging , but when for their own interest they have to support something they are out there doing it. No consistency, no idea, no policy, an absolute sham—they are unable on the big issues that confront this country to get their act together to work out how they are voting. And they are led by a man who did his best Captain Snooze impersonation last night: there on the front bench asleep when the big decisions are being made.
Government members interjecting—
Mr HUSIC: That is right. He is either asleep in here or he is sleeping off a bender from being in the members dining room while we are deciding what to do to save the nation as a result of the global financial crisis. We are doing a great job, because he will trawl around every place he can—
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr HUSIC: You don’t like it, do you? You can’t sit there in silence. Listen, the heat’s going to get up a little bit more! What I love is they will go anywhere here and sap confidence out of the local economy by telling everyone how bad things, then the minute that the Leader of the Opposition can get himself on a plane overseas, where no-one is watching, he tells the rest of the world how great Australia is.
Ms Rowland interjecting—
Mr HUSIC: Exactly, he will not tell everyone how well we are doing here, but he will do it over there. When it comes to the big decisions to be made, we make them and then he goes and claims credit. He does not stand up for the decisions here. He does not do the right things.
Ms Rowland: Captain Snooze!
Mr HUSIC: Captain Snooze will go home to the motherland and tell them how great we are. It is an embarrassment, and do you know what? You can just tell the tide is rising.
Ms Rowland: The member for Higgins is onto it!
Mr HUSIC: Wow, the member for Higgins! I will give her credit. The member for Higgins is able to do something that their frontbench cannot. The member for Goldstein cannot when he has been overruled on key issues, and he is the shadow finance minister. He cannot do it, but the member for Higgins—wow! She is making it happen. They know they are in trouble. They do not have the ticker. They do not have the brains. They do not have the wherewithal. (Time expired)
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): Before I call the honourable member for Flynn, I remind members on both sides of the chamber that it is extremely disorderly to be interjecting from outside one’s seat.
Mr McCormack: Shame on you!
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I do not need any assistance from the member for Riverina. My observation was that there were guilty parties on both sides of the chamber, including the honourable member for Herbert—he was an offender.
Mr Ewen Jones: I’m here to help!
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The honourable member for Flynn has the call.