Ms STEPH COOKE ( Cootamundra ) ( 14:38 ): My question is addressed to the Deputy Premier. What is the New South Wales Government doing to promote economic growth and business confidence in communities across the State?

The SPEAKER: Order! Members will come to order. The level of noise in the Chamber is atrocious. I call the Deputy Premier.

Mr JOHN BARILARO ( MonaroDeputy Premier, Minister for Regional New South Wales, Minister for Skills, and Minister for Small Business) (14:39): I thank the member for Cootamundra for her fantastic question. It is a question that comes directly from someone who has lived in regional New South Wales, created jobs in regional New South Wales and of course has run a small business in regional New South Wales. The member for Cootamundra brings that life experience to this House as a member of the Government. As the Minister for Small Business, I can say it is a fantastic day to have a member of the Government who has walked in my shoes and who supports the Government’s promotion of small businesses. Anyone who wants to read one of the best inaugural speeches should go to the inaugural speech that Steph Cooke made yesterday. It was a fantastic speech that referred to how important regional areas are to the State and, more importantly, how important small businesses are to the State’s economy as well as to local economies in creating jobs and prosperity in regional centres. I reiterate my thanks to her for her fantastic question.

Why would people not start a business or a small business in New South Wales? It is clear from recent data that New South Wales continues to be the number one State when it comes to business confidence and the place in which to start a business. We are seeing a plethora of new businesses and existing businesses absolutely thrive. It is fantastic to note that, on the back of the Government’s investment not just in infrastructure but also in placing small business front and centre in this year’s budget, the NSW Business Chamber’s chief executive officer, Stephen Cartwright, has been prompted to say that businesses “know there’s no better place in Australia to run or establish a business.” According to the latest Sensis Business Index, small and medium-sized businesses in New South Wales are more confident about the growing State economy now than at any point in the past four years. That confidence has been indicated by some of the strongest business growth in the past 10 years, with more than 20,000 businesses commenced last year alone in New South Wales.

The statistics clearly reflect that New South Wales has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, at 4.6 per cent. As members have heard me say repeatedly, the Government does not create jobs. The Government creates an environment conducive to successful investment by small and medium enterprises—the mums and dads and individuals who show courage by investing in their business and risk their home by taking out a business loan to be part of the small business community. Only Government members who either have run small businesses or accept how important small businesses are to our economy understand how important it is for a government to create an environment that is conducive to business success. This Government creates such an environment through the provision of a number of resources and programs across the State. When it comes to start-up companies, the Government’s Boost program is the result of this Government partnering with the university sector and TAFE NSW and providing $18 million in additional program funding to build a network of accelerators and incubators for small businesses. Small businesses will benefit from the university sector, which is great for research and data. The Government’s initiative is bringing small business and the university sector together to make sure that we build the small businesses of the future.

An example of one such business is SmartShepherd from Armidale, which uses the latest technology to improve livestock breeding, efficiency and welfare. Chief executive officer Dave Rubie said, “We’re very grateful for the UNE SMART Region Incubator and the support from the State Government to get our business off the ground. Using the incubator space means that our business is now within an hour’s drive of our market, which is invaluable for getting feedback and conducting trials.” Through the Government’s Boost program, which is worth $18 million, the Government is ensuring that we have the small businesses and other businesses of the future in this State. But of course one issue that is always raised with the Government is cutting red tape. The Government has addressed this by implementing the Small Business Friendly Council program and the Easy to do Business program and by providing $15 million to cut through red tape, especially for small bars, cafes and restaurants. They will no longer have to deal with 13 agencies, 75 regulations and 48 forms to start a business.

This Government has provided one online site at which to enter the data once. By doing so, the Government has been able to reduce business commencement approval time from almost 18 months to 90 days. I cite as a fantastic example of that the great Grounded Space cafe at Parramatta, where I had the opportunity to meet Peter, who said, “The Easy to do Business program was very helpful and they made all the steps very simple to do online. When you are trying to juggle a million things it makes it so much easier when you have a guided process—and it can all be done online.” The Government knows how time poor owners are when they are running their businesses. This Government wants to get on with creating jobs and investing in businesses. This Government wants to be part of the great small business economy and wants to make it simple to do business in this State. [Extension of time]

Similar examples of the Government’s streamlined business start-ups exist in regional areas of New South Wales. Recently I was in Dubbo announcing the Easy to do Business program and it was great to see small bars, cafes and restaurants coming through the system. The best thing this Government can do is ensure that small business owners have the resources and support they need to traverse the very complex small business sector. The Government recognises that in today’s world we no longer have a domestic business market but a global market. The Government wants to make sure that small business owners have the resources to develop their businesses and become successful. To assist them, the Government has implemented a $30 million Business Connect program and has provided at grassroots level a range of advisers with expertise in specialty areas to advise and support small business owners. The Government announced $30 million for the program in this year’s budget to facilitate small business owners acquiring skills in digital and financial literacy that will take them beyond the next 10 years of operation.

The SPEAKER: Order! Opposition members will come to order. There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber. Members may leave the Chamber if they do not wish to stay for question time. It is not compulsory for members to attend question time.

Mr JOHN BARILARO: In speaking about the future, I want to create an environment for the next generation of entrepreneurs. The Government invested $25 million in the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship because it wants the best entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Sydney and in other areas of New South Wales. That is an exciting investment by the New South Wales Government. The Government also wants to back those great new businesses of the future. Recently the Government announced the $150 million GO NSW Equity Fund, which will be funded jointly between the Government and First State Super and which will result in the Government and First State Super taking an equity stakeholding in the businesses of the future. This Government wants to back the next eBay, the next Facebook or the next Google. The New South Wales Government has such confidence in the private sector’s small and medium enterprises as well as businesses in general that it is prepared to become a business partner to ensure that this State is the home of great innovative businesses of the future. To be able to do all that I have outlined, this Government has to run a tight budget and maintain budget surpluses. Opposition members have no idea about running budget surpluses and they have no idea how small businesses prosper in New South Wales.

The SPEAKER: Order! When members come to order, I will call the member for Granville. There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber. I remind members that it is not compulsory to attend question time. Those members who wish to have non-stop private conversations will do so outside the Chamber.