Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP speaks in support of small businesses and instant asset write-off

28 May 2024

I call on the government to stop playing politics with small business—97.3 per cent of businesses in Australia are small businesses, and they are hurting. I moved amendments when this bill was first before this place in relation to extending the scale of the asset write-off and the time frame for it to go for another year. The government dug its heels in, and I should say the opposition voted against it. You're all very happy to play politics, but the people on the ground that are hurting actually need this to happen.

What happens in practice is this legislation is stalled. Of course, the government, at budget time—and it was back in the budget in 2023—made the big announcement that there was going to be this asset write-off. Businesses—small businesses—think they can count on that. They make provisions, and then nothing happens. The legislation doesn't pass either House and then they are left in the situation of not being able to do the measure that was promised by the government on budget night. What we saw last week, with the budget for this year, was the announcement again, but again the digging-in of the heels by the minister and by the government of insisting on this lower asset write-off. The reality is, you do not have majority in both places, and the majority in the other place has told you, loud and clear—has insisted—on returning this bill with an amended asset write-off to the $30,000.

So the question to the government now is: are they going to continue to play politics and risk all small businesses? We know that some 43 per cent of small businesses aren't profitable at the moment and are continuing to face an ongoing storm of cost increases and regulatory complexity. The government have a question before them: it is in their hands now. Get on the side of small business and embrace these amendments. The will of the other place has been clear. The majority in that place have asked you to reconsider and to amend this provision to ensure it is of sufficient scale that small businesses can actually take advantage of it.

The uncertainty is incredibly damaging. How can small-business owners have confidence in the government if they can't even know when something is going to come into effect or what scale it's going to be, and it takes so long? As it is, with the discussion in this place, so many small-business owners wouldn't even know what's happening. There isn't even a way of making sure that they are informed. Rather than playing politics, being obstinate and sticking to this to send it back to the other place—where it is clear it will not pass in its current form—I call on the government to recognise the need of small businesses to have access to this measure, to accept the amendments that the majority have asked the government to accept, and to ensure it passes amended.

The amendment to $30,000 is incredibly important. This is an asset write-off around an energy incentive bonus. It will help businesses make meaningful investments to ensure they do increase their productivity, their sustainability and their efficiencies. For the government, the question is: are they going to stand up for small businesses, or is it just tokenistic on budget night that they make an announcement and there's nothing that comes with it? For the opposition, the same goes. They voted against it when it came here before, then it got amended in the other place and has now come back. I note it was part of the budget in response speech, yet here we are. It's a promise for the future in an election.

Small businesses need you all to stop playing politics and actually get on with the job of helping them. Pass this legislation amended rather than sending it back to the other place, where it will again be stalled. There's always a lot of talk from all the major parties about being on the side of small business, but now's their chance to show it. Vote for this amended legislation.