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AGAINST – Bills — Treasury Laws Amendment (Support for Small Business and Charities and Other Measures) Bill 2023; Consideration of Senate Message

Stephen Jones

I move:

That the House insist on disagreeing to the amendments insisted on by the Senate.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Support for Small Business and Charities and Other Measures) Bill 2023 is a good bill. It provides $20,000 in instant asset write-offs from July for over 300 small businesses in this country. It'll increase cash flow. It'll decrease the compliance burden and provide over $290 million worth of relief to small businesses throughout the country.

About 10 days ago, the Leader of the Opposition stood at that dispatch box and gave his budget speech in reply. In his budget speech in reply, he said that he supported providing an instant asset write-off for small businesses in this country to provide more cash flow and compliance relief for small businesses. I thought it sounded good. You can imagine my surprise that, at the very same time, he was instructing his senators in the other place to vote against a bill which would provide an instant asset write-off for small businesses of over $290 million. What we see here is that they say that they want lower taxes and lower taxes for small business, but then they vote for higher taxes and higher taxes for small business. They say that they support small businesses, but then they vote to oppose the interests of small businesses.

There's a pattern of behaviour here. They say that they want lower energy bills for Australians, but then they vote against energy bill relief for all Australians. They say that they want cheaper medicines for all Australians, but then they vote against provisions for cheaper medicines for Australians. They say that they want higher wages for Australians, but then they vote against measures which will provide higher wages for Australians. They say that they want the government to spend less, and then they tell their people in the other place to vote for amendments which will increase the spending. When it comes to the coalition, you cannot trust a word they say, because they say one thing and then instruct their members and their senators in this place and the other place to do the exact opposite.

Paul Fletcher

Unfortunately, Minister Jones has just given an entirely misleading explanation of what is going on here, which sadly is not inconsistent with his form in this place over a number of years. The simple fact is that the Treasury Laws Amendment (Support for Small Business and Charities and Other Measures) Bill 2023 contains measures to support small business, which is true, including provisions for the instant asset write-off, which is also true. What is not true is that the coalition is opposed to the instant asset write-off. On the contrary, we support it. The amendments that we moved in the Senate—which I am pleased to say received the support of the Senate in cross-party recognition of the compelling merit of the amendments we moved in the face of the obdurate opposition and obdurate resistance of this government—would extend and strengthen the effect of the instant asset write-off scheme.

Why did we do this? We did this because on this side of the House we are consistent, resolute, determined, trenchant supporters of small business. We know that small business is the very foundation and bedrock of our economy. We know that small-business people do whatever it takes to open their doors every day. If sales are down and times are tough, very often it is the business owner who accepts less in their pocket every month in terms of owners' drawings out of the business so that employees can continue to be paid. Small-business people and small businesses are the very backbone of our economy. When we were in government, the previous coalition government consistently supported small business. We consider that the amendments that we moved in the Senate, amendments that were accepted by a range of other parliamentarians representing a range of other parties and quite a number of Independents as well, have compelling merit. It's disappointing, I have to say, that the government is not prepared to consider them. We think they speak absolutely for themselves in terms of the benefit they will bring to small-business people all around Australia.

Let's remember: this is a cold, dark, long winter for small business. This is a very grim time. Very soon, thanks to the extraordinary laws passed by this government, laws that reflect the agenda of the union movement—every one of the Labor parliamentarians in this place dances to the tune of their union pay masters; the pre-selection of every one of them depends upon the union bosses—and as a consequence of the laws that have been passed in this place by these servants of the union movement, a movement that can command only eight per cent of private sector employees as members, small-business people around the country will very shortly have no legal protection when they are visited by a large group of burly, tattooed union officials with 'CFMEU' or other patches on their T-shirts and jackets. Those small-business people will have no capacity to resist the demand to enter, thanks to the perverse laws this government has passed. Small-business people, sadly, will face no option but to have union thugs enter. Sadly, certainly when it comes to the CFMEU, many of them convicted criminals, many of them convicted multiple times, they will be free to enter the premises of small businesses around this country. On the other side of the House they think that's a laughing matter. We don't think it's a laughing matter. We think it's very serious, indeed. We think it's a grave error in judgement.

In this grim, dark winter for small businesses, the amendments that we moved in the Senate, which would have extended the operation of the instant asset write-off scheme, would bring a shaft of light into the lives of small-business people. They were passed by the Senate. On this side of the House, we strongly believe that they should also be passed by this House.

Zali Steggall

I call on the government to stop playing politics with small business—97.3 per cent of businesses in Australia are small businesses, and they are hurting. I moved amendments when this bill was first before this place in relation to extending the scale of the asset write-off and the time frame for it to go for another year. The government dug its heels in, and I should say the opposition voted against it. You're all very happy to play politics, but the people on the ground that are hurting actually need this to happen.

What happens in practice is this legislation is stalled. Of course, the government, at budget time—and it was back in the budget in 2023—made the big announcement that there was going to be this asset write-off. Businesses—small businesses—think they can count on that. They make provisions, and then nothing happens. The legislation doesn't pass either House and then they are left in the situation of not being able to do the measure that was promised by the government on budget night. What we saw last week, with the budget for this year, was the announcement again, but again the digging-in of the heels by the minister and by the government of insisting on this lower asset write-off. The reality is, you do not have majority in both places, and the majority in the other place has told you, loud and clear—has insisted—on returning this bill with an amended asset write-off to the $30,000.

So the question to the government now is: are they going to continue to play politics and risk all small businesses? We know that some 43 per cent of small businesses aren't profitable at the moment and are continuing to face an ongoing storm of cost increases and regulatory complexity. The government have a question before them: it is in their hands now. Get on the side of small business and embrace these amendments. The will of the other place has been clear. The majority in that place have asked you to reconsider and to amend this provision to ensure it is of sufficient scale that small businesses can actually take advantage of it.

The uncertainty is incredibly damaging. How can small-business owners have confidence in the government if they can't even know when something is going to come into effect or what scale it's going to be, and it takes so long? As it is, with the discussion in this place, so many small-business owners wouldn't even know what's happening. There isn't even a way of making sure that they are informed. Rather than playing politics, being obstinate and sticking to this to send it back to the other place—where it is clear it will not pass in its current form—I call on the government to recognise the need of small businesses to have access to this measure, to accept the amendments that the majority have asked the government to accept, and to ensure it passes amended.

The amendment to $30,000 is incredibly important. This is an asset write-off around an energy incentive bonus. It will help businesses make meaningful investments to ensure they do increase their productivity, their sustainability and their efficiencies. For the government, the question is: are they going to stand up for small businesses, or is it just tokenistic on budget night that they make an announcement and there's nothing that comes with it? For the opposition, the same goes. They voted against it when it came here before, then it got amended in the other place and has now come back. I note it was part of the budget in response speech, yet here we are. It's a promise for the future in an election.

Small businesses need you all to stop playing politics and actually get on with the job of helping them. Pass this legislation amended rather than sending it back to the other place, where it will again be stalled. There's always a lot of talk from all the major parties about being on the side of small business, but now's their chance to show it. Vote for this amended legislation.

Michael McCormack

One of the most important components of our economy is small businesses. They represent 97 per cent of our businesses. There used to be a joke: 'What is a small business? Well, when Labor's in government it used to be a big business or a medium-sized business. Under a coalition government, they made it a small business.' Whilst that is a slightly humorous little tale, the fact remains that we as a parliament should be doing everything in our power to help small business. All too often, what we see when Labor is in power is the unions taking the hand of the members opposite, and they just put so many obstacles in the way of our small businesses. Those opposite never knew a business that they wouldn't like to put a picket line out of the front of. It is so disappointing.

What we are all about on this side of the House is making sure that we cut through that red tape, cut through that bureaucracy and make it easy for our small businesses to operate.

Government Members

Government members interjecting—

Long debate text truncated.


Date and time: 5:49 PM on 2024-05-28
Allegra Spender's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 73
Total number of "no" votes: 68
Total number of abstentions: 10
Related bill: Treasury Laws Amendment (Support for Small Business and Charities and Other Measures) Bill 2023

Adapted from information made available by

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