New Zealand Business Number Bill - First reading

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

STUART SMITH: I really feel for the Assistant Speaker having to interrupt such a wonderful discourse of whatever.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Trevor Mallard): Order! I did terminate the member Kris Faafoi’s speech for being irrelevant. The member is inviting me to do it very early to him.

STUART SMITH: Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker, for that direction. Can I begin by congratulating the Minister for Economic Development for bringing this bill to the House. I think, actually, as a businessman—or certainly a former businessman—having dealt with the Inland Revenue Department and all of the other Government agencies, this is very welcome news.
It does not surprise me, as has been claimed from the other side of the House, that small businesses do not recognise the benefit to them of a bill like this. Often small businesses are so mired in the day-to-day running of their businesses that they do not particularly think of these things and they do not recognise the benefit of them until they are actually upon them.

I have had experience with a business number, not in New Zealand, but with an Australian part that we had to deal with in my wine business. Having a business number over there absolutely made things a lot easier. It seems to be nonsensical that we have not had one up until now.

These little things that Governments do from time to time, which may seem boring and not earth shattering, do make a difference, and they do move businesses forward. Those little parts in the New Zealand economy are actually what drive New Zealand on. It is not the big businesses, as important as they are to New Zealand’s economy. It is the little businesses that impact on most people in New Zealand. So it is incumbent upon us to allow them to be as efficient as possible. The New Zealand Business Number will do that.

I think one of the big things with this bill is, actually, how they are going to maintain the New Zealand Business Number Register. That register is going to be kept by the registrar appointed under the bill, and it will contain only business-related data.

Certain primary business data contained on the register for the entity must be publicly available as follows: “in the case of a corporate or public entity,— (i) the data listed in Part 1 of Schedule 3”; “Legal entity name; Registered address; Location identifier; NZBN; Start date; Kind of entity; Business status (eg, active or inactive)” and “any data prescribed by regulations that the entity elects to make publicly available or that is otherwise available on a public register” and “in the case of an unincorporated entity … the data listed in Part 2 of Schedule 3 … Location identifier; NZBN; Start date; Kind of entity; Business status (eg, active or inactive)” and “any data prescribed by regulations that the entity elects to make publicly available.”

That all sounds like pretty mundane stuff, but I can assure you that once you have filled out this information once and then you have to do it again—and sometimes four or five times in a day—it can become pretty tiresome. For a small business—and this will be rolled out to sole operators in time—it is going to make a tremendous difference and free them up to do what it is we as an economy want them to do, which is get on with business. That is what enables us to enjoy the lifestyle we do as a country and enables us to have enough taxes to look after those people who cannot look after themselves, which is something that many on the other side of the House claim to champion.

I note that there are already 1.1 million businesses that have a business number, so this has already begun. This bill simply enables it to be rolled out wider. I think the small businesses are quite rightly the ones, as I said, that need to come on further with this. It will enable us to build a more competitive and productive economy, which is something that we all benefit from, so I cannot see anyone having any issue with that.

Lifting business confidence is also part of the Business Growth Agenda, which this ties in very neatly with, and addresses issues that matter most to firms, particularly building export markets, building capital markets, building innovation, and building skilled and safe workplaces.

I note that this ties in also with the Financial Markets Conduct Act, which allowed crowd-funding to come in. This all ties in with this business number, because actually that has been a great source of capital for small businesses, and they have been able to raise funds—in fact, up to $2 million—that way.

Carmel Sepuloni: Relevance?

STUART SMITH: It is great to be able to have all of this pulled into the bill because the business number enables all of that information to be equally shared. I think that is really important so it is very relevant.

Labour market statistics show that self-employed businesses grew by nearly 35,000 in the year to December 2014. If you think about that, there would be at least one person. I do not know what the average size of small to medium sized enterprises is in terms of people involved with them, but I would think it would be seven or eight people maximum—[Interruption] 20 is it, and then right down to one. I would say it would be three or four people so that is a lot of people involved in those businesses. So there is a significant increase in the numbers involved in small to medium businesses.

And a lot of small to medium businesses fail in their first year. I guess there is an element of Darwinian selection there and that is as it should be, because not all businesses will survive—[Interruption] Absolutely, but it is a great thing to get these businesses up and running and one of the things that new businesses often struggle with is the day-to-day management of their basis—their data, filling in all of this information—so it really is a great step forward, this bill.

With our 3.5 percent GDP growth that we are running at the moment, it is enabling businesses to grow across the whole economy. I am sure that is something that the other side of the House will be delighted about—that we have a Government that is focused on business, focused on growth, and focused on making those businesses able to get as much profit out of them for the amount of work that they do.

So, on that note, it is with great pleasure—[Interruption]—and with all the support I am getting from the other side of the House that I commend the bill to the House.