Mr HOGAN (Page) (09:39): I rise to speak on an issue of great concern to many businesses in my electorate of Page. As many in this chamber may remember, the previous government decided to change the definition of a small business, from 15 full-time equivalent staff to a headcount of 15. While there are those who are unaware—as the Labor Party obviously is—about the way a small business operates, this change in definition has had many serious consequences, particularly in regional areas like Page. It restricts the ability of employers to create part-time jobs; it prevents young mothers from having the ability to job-share or to strike the right work/life balance; and it stops schoolkids from getting real-life work experience while earning a bit of pocket money.
I come from a region where small business makes up 96 per cent of all businesses, many of which are in hospitality. This figure alone will tell you that small businesses are a major employer and economic driver in my community. The problem is that under the old definition, these small businesses could employ staff to suit the needs of their staff members. You could have more than 15 people on your payroll, as long as they were the equivalent of 15 full-time workers. It was a win-win: not only for the employees but also for the business, and it meant that young mothers were able to spend time with their children and also cover for each other when one was sick. But the new definition changes all that. Now, any small businesses that have a headcount of 15 staff or more—and many of those staff might be part-time and might only work a few hours a week—are caught up in all of the red tape that is slowly strangling our economy. They now fall under the legislated obligations that are really designed for much bigger businesses with much deeper pockets. The headcount of 15 is particularly onerous for the hospitality sector, as businesses with only eight full-time equivalents can easily exceed their headcount of 15 due to the part-time nature of the positions.
The Labor Party may talk the talk about the need for good work-life balance—but Julia Gillard and the previous Labor government signed the paper that swept this concept away for anyone working in a small business. It is time for the government to get off the backs of businesses, mothers and schoolkids. We need to bring back the old definition to give business certainty once again, and to allow those who want to work part-time or to job share the opportunity to do so.