Small business - It's never been harder

24 May, 2023

I'm the product of small business. My grandfather was a grocer. My father was a draper. I ran retail Mensland stores, baize wear stores and drapery stores. I'm very proud of my background and the staff that worked with me all through those years. What I learned in my operation of small business—I never had any contact whatsoever with government through all my years. Neither did my father. Neither did my grandfather. We understood the rules. Our staff were under a national award, and we always paid over the award. There was never, ever a question about what the Broadbent companies paid their staff. We were proud of our relationship with our staff and, of course, with the community we represented, which changed as time went on.

When the Italian community became the dominant community within the Koo Wee Rup area, my father employed young Italian people in the business so they could communicate directly with their fellow Italians. It was the same with the Dutch and the Germans—the same with anybody that came into our district. We had people who could participate in community just by the basic operational relationship being everything. Sales were important, but relationship was always more important for our community. So, when Australians were looking very closely at the recent budget—especially the Australian small business community—they were thinking, 'Jesus, don't put another burden on top of us again. Don't tax us again. Don't make changes again.' And across my years in this place—as the member for Riverina would know—I've found that small business wants one thing from governments: 'Get out of my life. Don't make changes to IR that directly affect my business. That is not beneficial to us having relationship with our staff that we need to have.' Through my time, I did not meet small business owners who ripped off their staff. If they did, people didn't work for them, in those days.

Today, it's really hard to get staff in a small business. It's never been harder. I can't walk anywhere in my electorate of Monash where there's not a sign in a window saying, 'We are hiring; come and talk to us; we want you to work with us; just come to the front desk.' I think only three times in my years in the business young people walked into my shops and said: 'Can I talk to Russell, please? I'd like a job.' And all three of them said, 'I don't want to be paid; I just want a job so I can say on my resume that I had a job.' Of course, what my father, my brother and I did, when we did bring them in each time, was that we paid them—of course we paid them—for the work that they did. Those three people turned out to be some of the best people we had ever employed. More than that, they went on to do fantastic things within the business community, over and above what we could do for them within the structures of our business, because they got a little start with us.

I still meet young people now—well, I say 'young; they're 45 or 50—who say, 'Russell, you gave me my first job; you gave me my first opportunity.' That's what small business does, right across my community and from Darwin to Devonport and from Perth to Parramatta. They're the businesses out there that actually employ people every time and give people a start, give them a job after school, give them a job on Saturday morning, give them a job on Friday night. Yes, we have to employ them for three hours. We pay them for three hours, even if they do only two. But they learn what it is like to be in a very good small business, right across Australia. I know I identify today with the pride of every small business that makes the contribution that they make to our economy every day. I walk with them, I thank them, and I just ask government to get out of their way, because there's an opportunity here for another young person to get their first job.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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