It was a successful night, given the number of functions that are on. A number of representatives from the small business community came to assist with the launch—names like Peter Strong, from the Council of Small Business of Australia, and Dr Christopher Peters, the Chief Executive of the ACT Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Christopher made the point that 50 per cent of the people employed here in Canberra are employed by small business. You would think that in Canberra the number would be skewed towards the public service, but it was interesting to hear that 50 per cent of employment positions in Canberra are in small business.
Why is small business so important to Australia and how can the Parliamentary Friends of Small Business be effective? Two million small businesses in Australia employ five million Australians—70 per cent of the workforce. Small business contributes 20 per cent of GDP. One of the concerns I have as a previous small business owner and as a member of this group—I hope we can answer this question—is how do we encourage the next generation of small business owners to step up to the plate to make sure that those statistics I mentioned earlier are maintained?
If you have kids growing up in families in small business and they see Mum and Dad working from daylight til dark, in some cases not making an enormous amount of money, they are the first ones to say, 'This small business gig is just not for me,' and they run off and pursue other careers. I have a 16-year old who has just been to a careers market to find out about jobs that will be available in the future. No-one at the careers market was saying they should pursue their own dreams and think about starting their own business.
That view was just not to be heard. The small-business sector needs all the assistance we can give it. I trust that Parliamentary Friends of Small Business will be able to act as a conduit in assisting small business. I thank our other co-launchers last night, the Minister for Small Business, Brendan O'Connor, and the shadow minister for small business, Bruce Billson.