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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1993 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 17 August 1993) . . Page.. 2260 ..

Small Business

MR WESTENDE: My question is directed to the Chief Minister. Does the Chief Minister agree with the Federal Treasurer that small business has a big part to play in leading and financing the economic recovery? If she agrees with her Federal Treasurer colleague, could she indicate to this house and briefly outline some incentives that she might consider to compensate for the various disincentives to small business, such as payroll tax, occupational health and safety requirements, high petrol charges, high rates, tip charges and various other licences and regulations?

MS FOLLETT: Madam Speaker, of course I agree with the Federal Treasurer's statement that small businesses have a leading role to play in economic recovery. That is certainly the case in the ACT, where small businesses comprise by far the major part of our private sector. Small business has been extremely significant in our relatively good employment figures in the Territory and they have also, I believe, played a significant part in the Territory's economic growth in recent times.

Mr Westende has asked me a very broad question, Madam Speaker, about what incentives I might offer to small business. I could go into a reiteration of matters which I have addressed the Assembly about on many previous occasions. They would relate to, for instance, our Business Services Centre, our business licence information service and a range of activities that have been undertaken in order to assist small business in the Territory. It would include, for instance, our two Business Incubation Centres, at Downer and now at Kingston, both of which are operating extremely well and are proving very effective in assisting small businesses to get under way, to stand on their own feet and to join in that economic recovery.

Madam Speaker, I think that what Mr Westende is probably looking for is some further statement by me about assistance to small business, and in doing so I think he is at risk of trying to pre-empt any statements that I might make, including in the budget sense. I would like to point out that Mr De Domenico has referred in particular to payroll tax. It is generally accepted that small businesses do not pay payroll tax. There is a threshold on payroll tax. The salaries bill has to be over $500,000 before the business has liability for payroll tax, and most small businesses, truly small businesses, do not reach that threshold.

Mr Westende referred also to rates, Madam Speaker. It is also a fact that commercial rates in the Territory, in common with commercial rates in many other places in Australia, have actually declined during the period of the recession. In some cases in the Territory they have declined quite markedly. I think the fact that many landlords do not pass on that lowering of rates to their tenants is very much to be regretted, but I have no doubt that that is the case. So, Madam Speaker, I certainly do acknowledge the place that small business plays in the Territory's economy and in our continued recovery and our increasing strength, and I will be providing assistance to small business as and when I can. I believe that this Government has a very good record of providing such assistance to small business, and it is a record that I have reiterated many times. I will not take further time in question time to do so.

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