It is a pleasure to rise and speak on this matter of public importance. Firstly, I would like to wish everybody a very happy Small Business Month, because it is Small Business Month. But believe it or not the irony of the whole situation has not been lost on small business in Victoria. In six week’s time small businesses will have another major impost cast upon them by this government — another public holiday that will cost small business very dearly.
That is not the only ironic aspect. One of the greatest ironies I have seen is that the first thing the new Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade did as minister — as he was; he has since been replaced — was, after being directed by the Premier, go out and cast two major imposts on the people he was supposed to be representing in his portfolio. All businesses across Victoria got a gift from this new small business minister of two major imposts with incredible cost to those businesses.
Also, have you heard the one about the small business minister who let the cat out of the bag and told a business group that the two new public holidays were just the thought bubble of one man? That one man obviously was the Premier. The minister told people that it was not his idea but that the government had been stuck with it. We all know what happened to that minister when he crossed the Premier. That is still being played out, and we saw part of it on the front page of the newspaper this morning. We are looking forward to the next edition of that.
The Labor Party has an intractable problem. It has a reducing gene pool because it always selects from the same people. It selects from the union movement, and what is the union movement good at? The union movement is good at squeezing money out of business and taxpayers. That is what it does, and that is all it does. In fact if the Labor Party continues to do that, if it continues to select from the same gene pool, it will reduce and continue to reduce. What we are seeing from these people is that they are one-trick ponies. Is it any surprise that we see on the front page of the newspaper this morning that members of the Labor Party have been up to their same tricks and that they have had their hands in the taxpayers' pockets again, this time to get themselves preselected? This is just the same trick.
What do we expect from the Labor Party? We see it every time. Whether it be at federal or state level, we see exactly the same thing. Labor spends a lot of money, and then what does it do? It solves it by taxing. Labor taxes and taxes, and that is all it knows. Taxes come in a whole range of ways. They can include direct taxes or reductions in services, which really is just same thing, or it can be the imposition of new public holidays. The new public holidays are a cost on the organisations that are the backbone of our economy. That is exactly what the government has done on this occasion too. It is trying to squeeze more money out of the electorate, squeeze more money out of small business, and by doing that the government is putting workers and their families out of work and reducing their incomes.
As I said, there is no great shock in what we saw on the front page of the paper this morning. I suppose the shock is that it was as clearly expressed and that we got to read some of the guts of it, but the fact is that it is not a great shock that members of the Labor Party had their hands in the taxpayers' pockets again or that this time they were doing it directly to have themselves elected. That will play out, and we will see what the authorities have to say about it as we move forward.
The Labor Party has also considerably underestimated the electorate. The Victorian people particularly have an inherent understanding of where their economy is at. They just know it. They know when the economy is going well, they know when it is starting to struggle — it is chugging along — and they know what is right in different circumstances. On this occasion what I am finding when I speak to people in the community is that they cannot understand why a government would impose a luxury like two extra public holidays when people know that things in the economy are not going particularly well.
It is actually un-Australian to impose a new cost on a particular area of the economy when the economy is already struggling. You would expect people to be really keen on the public holiday — they will take it, and so they should — but the fact is people are not particularly keen on having this public holiday because they know we are not in a situation that demands it. There is just not availability for it. The article in this morning's Age says we are getting ready for a second global financial crisis. If that is the case, we are putting in place two major impediments to small business investing and employing — and the operators of small businesses are the very people we are reliant on and the backbone of the economy. That is the Labor Party in action. It does it every time: it goes against the way things should be run, against employment and against what would make the economy strong, which is improving the situation for small business.
On that public holiday 158 000 businesses will close and 30 000 more businesses will open for only a few hours or with some, not all, staff. That is not something I would be particularly proud of if I were in the Labor Party. It has made a move that is going to reduce the number of businesses open by 158 000, and another 30 000 will only be open part of the day. The member for Melton is over there nodding his head as if that was exactly the plan. When the Premier was asked why he was doing this in a situation where nobody had asked for it, he said, 'Because it's going to be fantastic for tourism'.
The Premier needs to go around the state and ask those in the tourism industry, as I have been doing over the last few months. Apparently the businesses in the Wodonga area did not get the memo from the Premier that this was going to be good for them, because on that day Albury, which is only a couple of hundred metres away from Wodonga, is going to be open for business, with no public holiday, while Wodonga is going to be closed for business because of a public holiday the Labor Party has imposed on it. That is a problem. It is going to put a huge cost onto those businesses that employ our people. We want those businesses to employ more people because the unemployment rate is going up, but the Labor Party is putting impediments in place so they cannot do that.
That is not the only problem. People will go across the border and find new places to have a coffee or buy their goods. Sometimes those people may not come back to the old places, having found a new place to shop. That will be something indirectly caused by this new public holiday that the government has imposed on these small businesses. It is something you would expect from a government that is at the behest of the union movement, and that is certainly what is going on here.
The Labor Party looks around to see some of the large businesses doing reasonably well and thinks that is what the economy is all about but forgets that it is really about the small businesses. In Victoria there are about 540 000 businesses, but more than 93 per cent of those businesses employ fewer than 5 people and 97 per cent employ fewer than 20 people.