Page 1864 - Week 06 - Thursday, 5 May 2005

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measures by the government to benefit its supporters at the expense of employers in the ACT, albeit at not cost to itself.

Ms MacDonald: You’re running scared, aren’t you?

MR MULCAHY: Ms MacDonald interjects and says, “You are running scared.” I am not running scared but I know that the business community of Canberra is running scared. I have sensed it with the volume of response I have had in the last few days. They labour repeatedly with measure after measure designed to adversely affect their businesses and add the costs on.

Of course, all these ideas are dreamt up by people who have absolutely no idea what the real world is all about. They have enjoyed the privilege of union officialdom; they have enjoyed the privilege of living off the public purse. The prospect of ever having to deal with a profit and loss statement or balance sheet and meet a payroll is simply beyond their life experience.

In fact, there are many people in the city—and they are the ones who contribute the taxes that are spent so gleefully by the government—who live with the cost of these measures. When these measures are brought in, to business people they mean yet another burden.

I know Ms Gallagher is an enthusiast for these reforms and probably wants to be recognised as a pacesetter in the Labor movement in Australia because this is a unicameral Assembly with an absolute majority. But she does not realise that, when she puts more and more pressure on those businesses, people reach the point where they say, “Look, the costs are such that we will have to let people go and keep our costs within reasonable margins of error”—or, as we heard on the ABC this morning from the chief executive of the property council, people start moving out of town.

They go to Queensland where, despite the Labor government being in power, Premier Beattie maintains a measure of sense in his dealings with business. I would counsel the ACT government to move away from this ideological push and look to what the Queensland government does. They do not run a permanent war with employers. They have the view that employers contribute taxes—and those taxes of course are available to support the needy and to support vital and essential government programs.

In this territory, we want to try and prove that we can do things a little more radically than the rest of Australia. As a consequence of that we see a situation where people belittle the territory and treat us with less than serious regard. I hear it as I travel. I hear it from people in the federal dimension in this town, who shake their heads at what we do here. I find it regrettable that yet another cost is going to be imposed on the businesses in this city that are creating the jobs, the revenue and the taxation to support the largesse that we see opposite.

The bill is another impost in an increasing list of measures by this government to benefit its supporters at the expense of employers in the ACT—but of course at no cost to itself. It represents another step in the erosion of the ability of private sector employers to be competitive with businesses outside the ACT because of the increasing burdens placed upon them with no offsetting increases in productivity.

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