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Mr. Speaker, I move - That the House take note of the following matter: small business support.
We are hearing across our State from the incredible sector that provides the backbone to the Tasmanian economy that things are hard and that there is stress in the community.
I want to respond to a couple of comments that I have heard, not only in the Chamber but across the community, recently around the importance of small business and the reference to them being the engine room and power house of the economy.
This is true. We know from so many people in our community, the tens of thousands of people who are either employed by or growing and operating small businesses, that they are so important to Tasmania. However, if you expect people who are struggling and under stress to be an engine then they have to be cared for. An engine requires energy to operate. If you are fatigued and distressed and under pressure you cannot provide the energy. Therefore the engine room has the potential for catastrophic failure.
We talk about a small business being a power house to Tasmania. To be a power house, a hustler, a high performer and successful you need support and energy. Right now, we are hearing not only from micro businesses, small businesses but from our peak bodies who support and champion our business sectors, that people are struggling. I acknowledge the packages of support that are being provided to small businesses across our state. It is too little too late.
We are hearing from people now, today, of the distress they are under and their inability to maintain the employees that they need to deliver the services in their various sectors.
We are not just hearing from the same types of people in the same industries, we are hearing from micro, small and large businesses. We are hearing from people in retail, hospitality, tourism. We are hearing from people in lots of different sectors about concerns in the reduction of their income, not just at the 30 per cent which sets the threshold for the need for support, but we are hearing from people that are having a drop in their income right now of 60 per cent and 80 per cent.
In a peak body meeting I had recently in fisheries, I heard of a person who employs 15 people who has had no cash sales in six weeks -a successful business whose product goes to the mainland markets, particularly in Sydney. No cash sales for six weeks. People in small businesses and microbusinesses in Tasmania are often the leaders of their household. They bring home the money that feeds their family, that puts fuel in their cars, that maintains either the rental payments if they are lucky enough to have rental accommodation or their housing payments if they are potentially under stress in their mortgages right now.
We hear, as we have from Mr Paul Lewis, who operates an independent taxi service from Perth servicing the Launceston Airport, of the impacts in his business. It has been suggested that perhaps we are being petty and playing politics with the impacts of people in micro and small businesses but I want to share with you what Mr Lewis shared with me about his current experiences. His income has dropped by 80 per cent. He is not eligible for a grant at the moment. He still has to pay his rent, he still has to buy food, pay his rego, his insurance, the phone bill, the fuel. He turns up to the airport for a flight that is due, feeling positive, spending the fuel to get there from Perth to the airport at Evandale, and the flights are cancelled. People are living in a situation at the moment where they have not seen their family for a long time. His 16-year-old son is in Victoria. He has not seen him for eight months. He is looking after his elderly mother and he is caring for others in his family and struggling.
This is not about being petty. This is about being real and understanding how hard it is for people in our community right now. I received overnight a flood of emails from people in our community who are doing it tough. I want to read to the meeting today an experience of someone who has had a successful business for 15 years and never struggled:
'I have been in my business for 15 years as a sole trader. When COVID-19 hit I pretty much lost everything. Weddings were cancelled, postponed and now couples are not confident to book a wedding. I have received no assistance. I have had advice, but the advice has been to close. I do not want to throw away 15 years of building my business and my reputation and then struggle to recommence'.
We are hearing of people in hospitality who are having to lay off workers, who will find it hard to rebuild their businesses into the future. Contractors who are not being picked up in small business and microbusiness opportunities for grants are also finding it hard.
As we know, recently at the Launceston Airport, aviation staff were stood down and are not eligible for financial support. The challenge across all industries is the loss of jobs right now. The exodus of staff right now will have long-term impacts on a number of industries to rebuild. At the Launceston Airport it is suggested that it could take up to six months to recruit workers that we lose now once the borders reopen. Tasmanian small businesses are the backbone of our community.
They are the people who provide opportunities for a range of indirect services, indirect incomes for others in their small communities, often in regional Tasmania.
These are the families, the individuals who are supporting our school communities, our sporting communities, our community organisations. They are often the people that stretch because they understand what it is to provide support and need support.
Right now, there is too little too late being provided to the small and microbusinesses in Tasmania. We have heard today that the Government will make changes because they do understand that it is not enough and times are hard. We need to see action now for people struggling now to put food on the table, to pay their rent and to support themselves and their families.
August 25, 2021 - 11:37am
Video - YouTube
Mr. Speaker, I move - That the House take note of the following matter: small business support.
I rise today to again speak to a matter of public importance about small business support in Tasmania. Over the past two weeks, Labor has been persistently prosecuting the case for a greater understanding and the importance of clarity provided in relation to the environment of operating for small businesses, not only small businesses but microbusinesses, medium and large businesses in Tasmania.
We have had to do this because, despite the Government's insistence that they want to provide certainty and confidence to businesses across Tasmania, it is clear that their policies are misleading and confusing to those people seeking to operate, to earn an income and to contribute to the economy of Tasmania.
Last week we prosecuted the case for microbusinesses. Following our persistence in bringing to the attention of the Government these concerns from small businesses that are an essential part of our economy, there has now been an acknowledgment that this was an oversight and on Friday, grants will open for businesses earning above $25,000.
Further to that, we have recognised concern in the community that has been brought to our attention from, not only tax agents, but from businesses small and large from right across the state.
Northern businesses and Southern businesses are concerned by the misleading policy that was presented regarding the treatment of payroll tax during JobKeeper payments. When I came to this House it was important to me that I stood to act on behalf of all Tasmanians and that I stood to act for small businesses. In the last eight weeks since I have been appointed as the Shadow Minister for Small Business I have taken an acute interest in this area. I have ensured that not only have I been able to connect with and hear from businesses across Tasmania but I have also come to understand all of the elements of my portfolio. I also made a commitment to myself that I would always act with courage and ask the hard questions, that where there was something happening, where there was injustice or it was unfair, that I would raise that in order that corrections could be made and that I would always be in action.
Today we asked the Minister for Small Business to confirm statements made in this House yesterday in regard to the policy of treating JobKeeper payments with payroll tax.
Yesterday the Small Business Minister stated in this House that JobKeeper payments were exempt from payroll tax and in fact, stated that repeatedly in the House yesterday. When asked to clarify today, there was no correction of the record. In fact, a different answer was provided by the Small Business Minister and by the Acting Premier.
Therefore, are businesses across Tasmania who are currently providing and submitting their end of year returns led to believe that the reply provided by the Small Business Minister yesterday to be correct? In fact, there is no liability across JobKeeper payments for payroll tax. It is not just businesses that are deep in hurt right now, that are deep in the concerns of keeping their businesses alive; deep in concern of being able to generate the income to pay their employees. Not only that, they are doing extra hours and some are taking extra jobs, not to pay themselves more but to pay their staff, and now have to go through understanding this misleading policy from the Government.
Today we seek a clarification from the Small Business Minister. In fact, by the end of the day we need businesses across Tasmania to be clear in how they are going to treat these payments. Is it the case that where Federal Government funds have been provided to Tasmanian businesses to support workers, to secure jobs that were provided because there was an awareness of how hard things are, that the money that has been provided to secure jobs has been taxed by the state government to generate revenue? It cannot be believed that the Government is so desperate for funds that it would tax the very money that has been given to these businesses to secure jobs and to support workers and in turn support their families.
We have heard in the last week when prosecuting the case of these COVID-19 support grants for people particularly in hospitality or tourism-affected businesses, that the grants that were first documented, maybe $2000, maybe $5000 or $10,000, are now what people are going to have to dip in to pay their payroll tax liabilities. On this side of the House, Tasmanian Labor stands for supporting small, micro, medium and large businesses. We stand for supporting the workers, the owners, and the people who right now are doing it tough to figure out how they are going to make ends meet at the end of the week, not only for themselves but for their employees and the families and the communities they support.
Today, we need to have clarity on the way this payroll tax is being treated across the JobKeeper payment because if this House is serious and if the Government is serious about their support and their understanding, if the Minister is clear in her portfolio, and she understands the impact this misleading policy has had on many businesses across Tasmania, then the record needs to be corrected. People who month-on-month in recent months were required not to include JobKeeper in their returns are now at the end of year finding an unexpected and significant expense.
We have an example of someone who has been given a $7000 payroll tax liability unexpectedly when they thought they would have zero. In the current circumstances for Tasmanian businesses that is devastating. We heard last week from a business that was eligible to apply for a grant, that was eligible in the category of having a $2000 grant despite losing $20,000 worth of confirmed bookings for their business.
Now, for a business that may be liable for payroll tax liabilities across their JobKeeper payments, it is essential that we are all on the same page here, that we seek to understand and then to clarify how in fact we are seeking to support small businesses across Tasmania, how we are supporting the owners that right now are doubling down on second and third jobs to pay the employees that they support, the families and communities that they support, and they do not need this lack of confidence, this lack of certainty or clarity from the government. What they need now is answers and for the minister to correct the record.
September 1, 2021 - 11:17am
Video - YouTube
Mr. Speaker, I move - That the House take note of the following matter: business support.
There has been much said in this term of Parliament about the importance of businesses in Tasmania, often referred to as the engine room and the backbone of our economy.
This matter of public importance is raised today because of Tasmanian Labor's understanding of and engagement with businesses in Tasmania and our concern for the current eco-system within which businesses are operating.
In order to support a business, you need to understand how they operate, what pressures are involved with their current circumstances and what is needed to ensure that a business, often now operating in an environment with extra stress because of the border closures, needs to get through from this chapter of challenge to, hopefully, a positive summer season.
Because of the pressure applied and the information provided by this side of the House to the Government, we know that micro-businesses, small businesses, medium and large iconic businesses across Tasmania are feeling the pressure in different ways. A small business, a sole trader, might be the only person that brings in a wage to their household. They may be supporting families and communities across Tasmania. A business of a slightly larger size might be employing Tasmanians and that employee may be seeking the security and the stability of their wage in order to provide for their family. Larger businesses are employing many individuals and the pressure on the business owner to ensure that they can continue to provide to their employees who, in turn, can provide to their families and who, in turn, then invest their wage into the local communities, as we know, is high.
These business are critical for the survival of communities and families across Tasmania right now. To support a business in Tasmania now takes not only understanding but timeliness of the support that is provided. It is only due to the pressure from this side of the House, and bringing to the attention of the Government the reality of the burdens right now, that the Government has acted, and now twice.
The first program rolled out for businesses across Tasmania refused to acknowledge the importance of micro-businesses; businesses earning under $50,000. The Government refused to take a moment to understand the pressure on a small business compared to a larger business that may have reserves and adequate cash flow to get through this difficult time. We are hearing from our community that this season is harder than last year and getting from this moment through to, hopefully, a positive summer season is finding people at their limit.
While we now have some detail on the next level of support for Tasmanian businesses, we are none the wiser about how and when that support will be rolled out. If October and November are when those first payments land in the bank accounts of businesses, they still have to get from here to that first payment. We have heard for weeks and have been providing feedback to the Government for weeks, as has business, that people are at their limit.
Business owners are taking second and third jobs or standing themselves down to continue to provide for their employees, earning a second wage to pay the wages of their employees so they can maintain their skilled staff until summer. It not only takes an investment of money but it takes time and skill to employ, train and maintain an employee, often when there are pressures to reduce hours or release an employee from their business.
Does the commitment made by the Government in this package ensure that employees within a business have security in their position? We need to ensure that in the summer, once there is an increased level of vaccination and borders are reopened when safe for Tasmanian communities and business, we still have the employees who can deliver the exceptional service we have worked hard to deliver across Tasmania.
We have encouraged people to make a career choice in tourism and hospitality when at one point people saw it as casual employment or an opportunity through university or to add an extra income.
We have many leaders in Tasmania who are demonstrating that you can have a career in hospitality and tourism. To develop that skill and excellence requires time and money. Business owners right now cannot afford to lose those employees and then reskill and retool for the summer season. To protect Brand Tasmania we support our businesses and their families and their communities. We need to make sure that the packages provided to support businesses are done in a timely way, are clear and can guarantee the security of workers in the businesses that they support.
It is important right now that businesses are backed by all Tasmanians, that Tasmanians get out and support businesses in a way that it is not just left for government. We know many people in our community are under pressure. They need our support, not only financially but emotionally, so businesses can survive this challenging time in a year harder than last year.
September 14, 2021 - 11:10am
Video - YouTube
Mr. Speaker, I want to speak today about work undertaken over the summer period, the time when some people took a break.
In my area of responsibility, Small Business, I worked with Rebecca White, the Labor economic team and members of the Labor team to connect with small business to understand the challenges they have faced and continue to face since the border reopened. One thing I found challenging in that time is the duality of public conversation, public reflection of how people felt businesses were tracking over that period of time.
We made an effort to connect with businesses and hear firsthand of the devastation and distress many businesses across all sectors of the Tasmanian economy have been feeling. The Premier in his Address said we have done a lot to support small business and if we need to do more we will. The Premier just said, and many people say repeatedly, that small businesses in Tasmania drive the economy, support communities, and provide engagement and connection in our communities.
It did not take much effort to pick up a phone, walk down the street, take the time to check in with those people and hear what was happening. What did we hear? We heard that Tasmania's small businesses were being challenged. The national Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, when he was meeting here, said there is no substitute for customers. We heard from small businesses across Tasmania that once borders opened that customers almost disappeared.
There were times, particularly in the Launceston CBD, in the mall areas that would normally be thriving over summer, it was like tumble weeds. There were crickets. We heard similar stories in Hobart. In regional centres, not only tourism centres but in towns that have great industry, streets were empty; there were no customers. I spoke to someone recently who said they opened their doors and usually they would have five to 10 people in their premises all day every day. Now there is not one person through the door; still now those challenges are being faced. So the Labor team got out there and did the work.
We connected to understand what the challenges were in small business and it is not what we are hearing from the Government. It is not that there is confidence. It is not that they are doing well or that the current rounds of business support have met the mark.
There have been announcements about how many people applied for grants, suggesting that there was not really much need for the grants because not many people applied.
I can tell you that when speaking to people in tears about how they are going to not only pay the responsibilities financially for their business but how they are therefore going to pay their personal bills or support the families they employ and their family members that they support, and how are they going to make ends meet at the end of the day.
They did not have the energy. They were overwhelmed and found it too complicated to apply, and why would they apply for an amount of money that may be secured, and we have had lots of people that were rejected even though they have had devastation in their businesses, but it was just too hard and the amount of money offered was not going to make the difference. We are hearing of businesses that have lost in periods of trade over these last couple of months $5000, $10,000, $20,000, $150,000 in a week.
That is not going to be fixed with $1000, $2000 or $5000 support. Labor did the work and we recommended that businesses needed cash flow support, payroll support and support to understand what actually was happening. They wanted to feel they were being listened to.
We felt that workers needed more support and our community needed encouragement and leadership. There has been a lack of leadership from the Government to be encouraged to safely go back out into the community and support this business. We also recommended stimulus and confidence measures. Across Tasmania we have been hearing from the engine room of our economy, from the respected people we know work so hard to keep together our regional communities, but they have felt let down, disappointed and angry, because they know there is no leadership or understanding and a completely disconnected and out-of-touch government that is not understanding what they need.
In recent weeks there has been a suggestion of an uptick in the economy and that is fantastic. We have always known this was a chapter, but anybody who understands small business knows when you are experiencing losses, when you are having a challenging time, it takes months to trade through it. We know that we are about to hit the season of winter. What our small businesses need right now is for this Government to understand, to take the time to connect, to respect them and to find out exactly what they need to trade through these months to make it to the next season.
Many of these operators, some that have had businesses for 20 or 30 years and are at the top of their game and recognised as icons of Tasmania, need the support to get through these chapters that are facing them, to get through to the next summer, to continue to support Brand Tasmania and to continue to support the great reputation that is so openly talked about in order that they can continue to trade and support themselves and their communities.
March 1, 2022 - 3:52pm
Video - YouTube
Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak on behalf of many small businesses across Tasmania, in both the capital and in regional cities, who have been struggling, and for many, continue to struggle.
I acknowledge that the Tasmanian Government, under the direction of a new Minister, has today announced round three of the COVID-19 Business Impact Support Program. With the installing of a new Minister, I felt hopeful, I expected change.
I thought now there would be a moment that this Government would reflect on the feedback that they had been provided so clearly from small businesses, and do something different. We know that this out-of-touch Government, which has lost connection, particularly to small businesses in regional and rural Tasmania, is just not getting it right. What we have seen today is pretty much more of the same.
What we have seen today is round three - which means, they had a go first, then they follow it with a bit more, and now it is a bit more. It is drip-feeding: drip-feeding to small businesses owners and the workers in those small businesses that needed support when the borders opened.
We asked so many questions prior to the borders opening. Was the Government ready? We know the 39,000 small businesses across Tasmania, which employ 100,000 Tasmanians, expected and needed - their livelihoods depended on - the Government being ready, and they assured every Tasmanian that they were. If they were, they would have predicted the impact on small businesses, and they would have been ready to provide the support that would actually make a difference. But no. Only acting under pressure, which is a hallmark of this Government, did they provide an insulting amount of money that was too complicated and overwhelming for our small businesses, who have been fatigued by the challenges of the last two years, to actually even apply for.
People were providing feedback to say that for the small amount of money, it just was not worth the effort, and we have so much to focus on right now, to trade through this really tricky time. We have heard directly, we have heard the impact.
Tasmanian Labor have done the work, led by Rebecca White. Labor's economic team and every member of every electorate across Tasmania have been united and committed to hearing from, understanding and supporting small businesses. Some small businesses, in a week, lost $150,000; some losing continuously over weeks $2000, $5000, $10,000 for a period of time, over December and January in particular. What does $1000 do? I know personally, from my own experiences in small business, that when times are tough, you receive any amount of money gratefully. But when the magnitude of the impact that you have been burdened by the government to carry, on behalf of all Tasmanians, to continue to trade and provide often really essential services in regional Tasmania, when the Government does not get it right, it is an insult.
We heard that people were disappointed, saddened, hurt and angry by the lack of preparedness. So then, under pressure, they put out a round two, and they doubled the number, but made no changes, really, that you could count on structurally. I hesitate to say this, because I want to encourage the new Minister - and I have heard her say it, and I trust she follows through - to commit to engaging with and hearing from small businesses and do things differently, because we know it is needed. It is pretty much round three, the same type of support is offered.
The work Tasmanian Labor did responded particularly to the needs of small businesses across Tasmania. We know payroll support was really important to maintain that support for the business, for them to continue to deliver their services and for workers to maintain their hours, their jobs and their shifts. We know that cashflow is king. Cashflow support was really important. Support with overheads is something the Government can really influence by rebating fixed costs. We know - and we actually heard it just this week - that in some areas it is okay to extend support for payroll tax relief.
If you have been in small business you know that if you are struggling week by week, if it is hard to make ends meet at the end of the week, then you get a big bill that comes perhaps quarterly through the year, and you have not been able to squirrel away your funds to be able to pay that. We have had businesses in tears with us, about the worry that they carry - not just for themselves and their families and their livelihoods.
When you employ people, they become your family. Their families become your family, and the burden of that responsibility keeps you awake at night, so when that payroll tax bill comes through where the business is so substantial that it pays payroll tax, it is making that contribution to the community. We have had people in tears, worrying how they were going to meet that commitment. We made recommendations, not only for the businesses but also for workers. We also made recommendations about supporting confidence and stimulus in the community.
We call on the Government to look at the work that we have done. Implement support that actually makes a difference for small business because if you actually respect them as you say you do, you will do the work. You will get back in touch. You will show leadership. You will get the basics right because we all know that small business is the engine room of the economy but it can only start and kick and thrive if it is supported and respected. Today has been a disappointment. It is more of the same. I was hopeful, I expected more and I expected better.
The small businesses of Tasmania needed better. It is time now that this business gets back in touch, gets out of the bubble of the capital city, back out into the regions, back out into rural Tasmania, and connects with the needs of small business.
March 10, 2022 - 6:35pm
Video - YouTube