Page 775 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2016

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Certainly the Canberra Liberals will always put small business to the fore when we are talking about important issues in the ACT. In Australia, 96 per cent of all businesses are small businesses. They employ over 4.5 million people, producing over $330 billion of our national economic output per year. They comprise half of working men and women. Really, they are the engine room of our economy.

In 2013-14 Australians started over 280,000 small businesses. I do not know how many would have failed since then, but I do note that the rates for small business failure are high. When you see a figure like that for the number starting up, you have to really think about the risk, the hard work, the sweat and toil that have been put in by so many people as they invest not just financially but emotionally in those small businesses.

In Canberra, we have 26,000 small businesses, with 97 per cent of small businesses employing less than 30 people. 16,000 are micro businesses employing one or two people. Again, these businesses in many ways are the engine room of our economy. We know that we have a large public sector in the ACT. We have some other great sectors as well in education, ICT and others, but small business is a very important part of our economy.

In February I outlined my vision and priorities for Canberra. At the fore of that vision was economic growth, because it is through economic growth that we create wealth in our society that can then fund health, education and other important services. But it also creates so many of the jobs that particularly our younger people would be able to access, particularly in times, as we know, when the federal public service is not in a period of growth.

As a Liberal, it is certainly in my DNA to support economic growth and business, and in particular small business. But it does require a dynamic and confident public sector supported by government. As I said in February, we do need to transition away from a government that, as a culture, has the CFMEU at its heart. We are not going to have the sort of enterprise to support particularly small business while we have a government that is beholden to the CFMEU.

If there is any doubt that that is an overstatement, you have to remember that it is the CFMEU officials that are running some branches of the Labor Party. In fact, in the Dickson sub-branch, the president was recently suspended because he faced criminal charges. But what did the Labor Party do, Madam Assistant Speaker? They replaced him with another CFMEU organiser also facing court action. When the secretary of the Labor Party was asked, “Is this the sort of Labor Party that you want? Is this appropriate? Why isn’t this member being suspended also?” his response was—I will paraphrase, “If we kicked everybody out of the Labor Party for facing fines, we wouldn’t have anybody left.”

That is an extraordinary thing to say about this CFMEU-dominated, anti-business Labor Party. It reminds me—

Ms Burch: A point of order.

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