Tonight I rise to strongly support the member for Forde's motion. There is no doubt that small business has been and continues to be the enduring focus and priority of this government.
I am particularly conscious of the challenges and opportunities for small businesses in the far north where our economy includes tourism; agriculture and food; mining; manufacturing, especially shipbuilding and maintenance; marine services and sea freight; and commercial fishing and general aviation services.
More recently, we have seen a very significant increase in arts and also in some of the very successful fashion designs. In the Cairns region there are over 23,000 registered businesses, with 63 per cent located in Cairns itself.
Micro to small, and small to medium businesses account for 85 per cent of Cairns' commerce and the vast majority of jobs. They are a vital contribution to the gross regional product in Far North Queensland, of $12.3 billion or 4.6 per cent of Queensland's gross state product.
Coming from a region where small business is the engine room of our economy, the measures outlined in the government's 2015 budget are certainly game changers. Our Growing Jobs and Small Business package is the biggest economic recognition of the sector in Australia's history.
I would like to outline, if I could, a few of the key measures. With the lowering of the corporate tax rates from 30 per cent to 28.5 per cent for small businesses with annual turnovers under $2 million, small businesses will face their lowest company tax since 1967. Up to 780,000 companies around Australia are going to benefit from this measure.
The government will also provide a five per cent tax discount to unincorporated businesses with annual turnover of less than $2 million from 1 July 2015. In addition, we will provide accelerated depreciation arrangements for small businesses and primary producers.
All small businesses will get an immediate tax deduction for any individual assets that they buy costing less than $20,000. This is a significant increase in the threshold and massive gain to cash flow for small businesses.
The local feedback to these measures has been very positive. In the Cairns Post in May 2015 there was a comment that:
The alliance of Cairns Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Tropical North Queensland and Advance Cairns welcomed a 1.5 per cent tax reduction as a win for employers and job seekers.
The Cairns Chamber of Commerce CEO, Deb Hancock, is quoted as saying:
All those kinds of initiatives count when you're considering growth and expansion and putting on new employees, so that will be a saving that people can apply.
On the same day, Cairns carpenter Stephen Sondergeld said that he was pleased with the prospect of lower taxes for small business. This aspiring builder and employer is currently undertaking a Certificate IV in Building and Contracts. He said gaining such a qualification is a significant investment, and that the government's immediate implementation of lower taxes was certainly a good sign.
It is not just about taxes, though. We are encouraging start-ups and entrepreneurship to fuel investment for jobs in the future. We are certainly cutting red tape so that businesses can focus more on growing and developing new ideas. We are also helping job seekers into work. We are also putting in place a youth employment strategy.
While we are on the issue of helping small businesses, there has been a lot of scaremongering from Labor about changes in penalty rates. The Productivity Commission is not recommending any change to overtime, night work or shift penalty rates.
The Productivity Commission has asked that the Fair Work Commission take into account some further evidence with respect to Sunday penalty rates in some service industries. The government will carefully consider the final report and any recommendations.
Ms Chesters: Shame!
Mr ENTSCH: Let me tell you, as it stands at the moment in the tourism industry when you see cafes and others that are having to shut on public holidays and Sundays, the employer gets nothing out of it whatsoever because they cannot afford to open their doors.
I think that this is a win not only for small business but also for those people who are relying on that employment. It is much better for those businesses to operate and employ people on those days rather than be forced to shut their doors and go broke because they are not able to do it.
Mr Frydenberg: And young people too!
Mr ENTSCH: They are all young people. Lots and lots of young people. I think if there is a good case for sensible and fair change this will be clearly outlined and will be taken to the next level. From a personal view, I certainly support change in weekend penalty rates— (Time expired)