Trawling through Hansard I came across this speech to the Senate on October 11, 2005 by Senator Barnaby Joyce. In the speech Senator Joyce sets out his reasons for his position on the Trade Practices Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1). It’s a speech which would warm the hearts of any small business owner and it has not been well covered by the press. Too often in these cases the media gets caught up in the politics of the vote and loses sight of the words of people like Barnaby Joyce. He makes sense. He gets the role of business and, in particular, small business.
This passage from the speech is particularly stirring:
The purpose of the economy is not to produce the lowest priced product for the end consumer. That may be a consequence of a good economy but it is not the purpose of the economy. The purpose of the economy is to create the greater nexus between the wealth of the nation and its people, and it generally does that through small business. Our job in this parliament is to maintain the management of that, to make sure that small business prevails and gets a fair go, to make sure that small business can start from the ground up, that a person can start from the ground up and attain their goal and that freedom that they get from small business.
We have had so many instances where it has looked like that might be slipping away. Newsagents, some of the horticultural producers, pharmacies and a lot of small retail shops in regional towns or in suburbs feel that they are over a barrel. They feel threatened and do not feel that they have the ability to go on in the manner in which their parents or grandparents probably went on before them. Our job in this parliament is not only to say we support that but also to publicly show we support that and to do it in such a forum as this, the elected body in this Senate chamber they have sent us to. Why do we believe in this freedom to go into business? The freedom to go into business is a mechanism that gives us our own personal freedom. In politics, we have to allow the greatest freedom for the individual that does not impose upon the freedom of others. That is the aspiration within politics.
One of the key freedoms you can have is the freedom to start your own business, build it up, see it progress and hand it on as a legacy to your children. That is a key aspiration we hold. Some people talk about their future within a company. Some people like to have their own future managing their own affairs, their own future that they determine. I side with those people and I want to support them. I believe the birth of a new business gives birth to an aspiration that you can pursue. It also allows the development of new products, new ideas and new managerial techniques. It gives the whole economy a greater breadth, a breadth to go forward. On the conservative side of politics—and, I suppose, even on the Labor side of politics—it is a fundamental good that we try to encourage.
Currently, with 77 per cent of the retail market controlled by two organisations, we would have to say that freedom is slipping away somewhat. The ‘national champion’ argument pays little regard to the ‘freedom of Australians to be in business’ argument. Mergers and acquisitions are the stepping stones by participants in the market to a position of centralisation that inhibits this freedom. As such, Senator Boswell was instrumental in including the provision that you cannot have a merger that is likely to have the effect of lessening competition in the market. The ACCC works under this auspice. As such, it is something that should be maintained in its current form. Currently the ACCC approves 98 per cent of mergers. The other two per cent do not pass, and they do not pass for a very good reason.
I especially like his comments about aspirations. It is important that we encourage entrepreneurship. For this to happen we need economic circumstances which respect small business owners. As Joyce suggests, the circumstances are slipping away.
It may sound somewhat twee but I found his speech encouraging.