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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 amendments be disagreed to.

I table a statement of reasons. The Albanese government knows that small business is the lifeblood of our economy and our communities. They're the heart of local communities, the significant employer, employing millions of Australians. Small businesses are doing it tough. We know that. In part in acknowledgment of this fact, we introduced a number of measures to provide ongoing support to small business in last night's budget. They'll find their way through the parliament and we'll be debating that over the course of the week and the fortnights ahead.

Small businesses need certainty and they need to ensure that measures announced in the previous budget are legislated in a timely fashion so that they can make their decisions, including their business and investment decisions, accordingly. For this reason it was a kick in the guts for every Australian small business when the opposition blocked the passage of this bill in the Senate for no good reason, leaving small businesses up in the air without any certainty about whether they would get the requisite relief anticipated by the government's tax measures that were announced in last year's budget.

The bill should have been passed into law months ago. This would have given small business and their accountants and advisors the capacity to plan for the year ahead. While the coalition blocks this significant relief for small business, the government is moving forward. We have announced an extension of the scheme. We'll extend the instant asset write-off for yet another year, providing an additional $290 million for small businesses over the course of the year ahead. If those opposite vote against this bill in the form that was introduced in the House after the last budget, they'll be voting to block that support for small businesses at the very time that they need relief, including tax relief, and certainty around the investments that they have made and will make into the future.

So we call on all members of this House to support the measures as they were originally introduced and enable the government to get on and provide the support small business deserves and needs—and were led to believe they could rely upon.

Stephen Bates

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Support for Small Business and Charities and Other Measures) Bill 2023 was amended by the Senate to lift the annual threshold of assets that can be instantly written off by small businesses from $20,000 to $30,000. We want businesses to invest and we want banks to be lending to businesses like they used to. We want productive investment that creates the jobs and industries that we need, instead of speculative investment in asset inflation.

Before financial deregulation in the 1990s, banks lent twice as much to businesses as they did for housing. Now they lend twice as much for housing as they do for businesses. This expanded flow of credit into the housing market has helped turbocharge house prices—but that is a bigger issue than what's in the bill. The biggest issue about the bill is its greenwashing. In last year's budget they announced a $340 million package for businesses to improve their energy efficiency. That was part of the $1.7 billion the Greens secured in exchange for the energy price caps.

With the passage of time we know that the Treasurer cares more about the announcements than about policy outcomes regarding the emissions of small businesses. Firstly, this program expires next month, so the $340 million announcement will be closer to a $3 million program, because no small business will have the knowledge or time to have made these investments. Treasury and the department of climate change have done nothing to promote awareness of this scheme amongst small-to-medium business owners. Secondly, this won't reduce emissions or energy bills for businesses. The short timeframe, even if it was legislated six months ago, means it is impossible for any sort of thoughtful or methodical energy investment saving to occur. Small business owners are just too busy to manage a project in these short timeframes while still trying to carry out their business.

This should be good policy, but it needs to run longer. It needs public awareness. We're not asking for radical changes. We are just trying to get the government to make its policy work so that businesses are investing in energy-saving projects. A period of three years would be enough for businesses to actually plan and use this $314 million. Until that problem is solved, we will insist on the amendments agreed to in the Senate to lift the threshold for eligible assets from $20,000 to $30,000.

Stephen Jones

I note the comments that have been made just now by the member for Brisbane. I simply make this point: it is now 12 months and one day since the government announced these measures for relief for small businesses—the energy investment relief and the $20,000 instant cash write-off. It was the reasonable expectation of small businesses around the country—their advisers and associations—that a measure such as this, which enjoys wide support within the business community and presumably within the parliament as well, that it would be swiftly legislated. As soon as was possible, the legislation was introduced into the House, and it moved through this place and was introduced into the other place.

I can understand members of the other place always wanting to do more. But what we've done in this bill is strike the right balance between providing support for small businesses in a timely fashion and incentivising investments in energy-saving technologies but also enabling businesses to make modest investments in the security and knowledge that they'll have the $20,000 instant write-off available to them. We announced in last night's budget that we intend to extend this measure for another 12 months, and legislation will be introduced to enable it to be extended for another 12 months. The right, good and just thing for this House to do is to ensure that the measures already announced can be enacted and that the new measures can be introduced into this place and enacted to provide certainty and security for small businesses. We all want to ensure that small businesses can invest in the sorts of energy-saving technologies that will be good for their business, saving them money on power bills, but also good for the environment. We all want to ensure that they can make investments with the certainty—on the basis of the advice that they get from their accountants and others—that they'll be able to get the tax relief available to them. Let's do the right thing: let's get this measure enacted now, and then we can move on to the measures that were announced in last night's budget.

Milton Dick

The question before the House is that the amendments be disagreed to.


Date and time: 10:45 AM on 2024-05-15
Allegra Spender's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 75
Total number of "no" votes: 18
Total number of abstentions: 58
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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