HON. WAYNE SWAN MP
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR LILLEY
PRIVATE MEMBERS BUSINESS (SMALL BUSINESS)
FEDERATION CHAMBER, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 17 AUGUST 2015
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There is no doubt that small business is the engine room of our economy. Small businesses are very dependent upon consumers and, of course, with the unemployment rate now the highest in 20 years, that unemployment rate has a material impact on overall business conditions. When you put that together with the constant talking down of our economy by the government, both when they were in opposition and now in government, that has also had a dramatic impact on small business and consumption—the sort of consumption on which small business depends for its profitability. We have had a lot of rhetoric and motions from those opposite supporting small business in our economy, and I certainly agree that small business is the engine room of the economy. It certainly makes the economy go round. But the sort of speeches that we have heard from those opposite show just how delusional they are, because they have been talking the economy down, shattering confidence and shattering business investment for well over five or six years.
They are only now realising the folly of that activity, because their deficit and debt scare campaign hit confidence for six. Consumer confidence at the budget was down 13 per cent. Business confidence at the budget was down 22 per cent. If you constantly talk the economy down, the economy does not grow, and the economy is weak at the moment with record levels of unemployment. Unemployment is above six per cent. We have not seen a figure like that for a very long period of time. Over 800,000 Australians are unemployed—the highest number since 1994. This is an embarrassment for the government, given how benign global economic conditions have been.
We did see a change of tack in the budget. We saw the government finally realise the folly of constantly exaggerating deficit and debt and talking our economy down. So what did they do to try and restore some confidence in the economy? They went back to a Labor initiative—the instant asset write-off, which they had abolished in 2013. They abolished the instant asset write-off, the accelerated depreciation for cars and the loss carry-back for those small businesses that were restructuring, taking $5 billion out of the economy. It has taken them two years to suddenly realise how dumb and destructive that decision was. It is good to see that they have realised their folly. It is good to see that they have brought the instant asset write-off back, in an attempt to restore some confidence in our economy. Of course, along with that we have seen this massive hit to public infrastructure investment—absolutely massive. Their own budget papers show that infrastructure investment is down 11 per cent across the forward estimates. The Prime Minister likes to waltz around the country claiming he is the 'infrastructure Prime Minister'. We had the pathetic example in the House last week of the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Mr Truss, claiming credit for the construction of the Epping roundabout—the Epping crossing—which has been under construction because of the investment, planning and foresight of the last Labor government. He had the hide to stand up in the House and claim credit for it.
There are many such projects around Australia that are now being completed, and there will be no more, because so many of the projects that will enhance our economic capacity were put on the backburner by this government, which is not making the investment in infrastructure that our economy requires. There is a classic one in my home city: the cross-river rail, which is absolutely essential to the future public transport needs of our city. We had the foresight to invest in the Moreton Bay rail, as well. But even that will be impacted upon by the failure of the Commonwealth to invest in the critical project of cross-river rail.
The approach to economic-capacity-enhancing infrastructure is simply shambolic. If this country needs anything at the moment to give a boost to growth, what it really needs is for the public sector, and particularly the Commonwealth, to show the way and get in there with the states and get some of these projects going. But it is not happening, and it is most certainly not happening in my city.
Then you have the NBN. The NBN is important to every single business in our community. It is a shambles. They need that critical investment for their prosperity.