Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (14:35): My question is to the Minister for Industry and Skills. Can the minister update the house on employment initiatives being undertaken jointly with the commonwealth government?
The Hon. D.G. PISONI (Unley—Minister for Industry and Skills) (14:35): I thank the member for Hammond for his interest in employment and the cooperative nature that this government has with Canberra. It is terrific to be able to work together to create jobs here for South Australians.
Mr Malinauskas interjecting:
The SPEAKER: The leader is called to order.
The Hon. D.G. PISONI: The state government's priority is to grow business and increase employment opportunities here in South Australia. Small business is the backbone of our economy, and we are implementing a range of reforms to ensure small business can grow and employ more staff. The federal government has written to me again recently outlining support for small and family businesses here in South Australia—and we are a small and family business state; there's no doubt about that—reaffirming that there are important opportunities to further support South Australian small businesses through joint initiatives between Canberra and North Terrace.
South Australia was the first state to register to participate in the commonwealth government's pilot program to make it easier for small business to employ their first person, their first employee. We know that the potential outcomes are great in South Australia. Of the 143,000 small businesses there are in South Australia, who represent 98 per cent of the businesses here in South Australia, 96,000 of them are either sole traders or partnerships—they do not employ anybody—so there is enormous potential for employment growth here in South Australia.
We can do that because these business owners have identified several barriers that concern them about taking on their first employee, such as the risk of employee suitability, fluctuations in the level of business activity, compliance obligations and the nature of business growth not matching government processes. Breaking down barriers for business owners who are hesitant to employ for the first time and reducing the associated red tape will provide potential employers with much-needed confidence and support.
We need to ensure that the process is much easier and that small business has support when it comes to understanding their obligations for tax, insurance, annual leave, management and training of employees. These can be overwhelming for a first-time employer—and I have been there, when I took on my first employee, who happened to be an apprentice, back in the mid-1980s, quite some time ago. My advice to those employers who haven't employed before and who are thinking of doing so is: give it a go because, once you have employed your first employee, you will recognise the benefit that your business will get from employing that employee and the fact that your business will grow, and then you will employ another employee and another employee, and away you go.
Of course, you can continue to employ more and more employees under this government because you will not be paying payroll tax after 1 January next year until your salaries reach $1.5 million. And, of course, consumers have more money now, as $90 million a year has been returned back into the pockets of consumers here in South Australia by the return of remissions and the emergency services levy that happened on 1 July. By reducing the tax burden on business, by identifying those barriers and knocking those barriers out for those businesses that want to take on their first employee, 'Take the plunge,' I say, 'Take the plunge. We are there with you, we support what you do, we want you to grow.'