Treasurer Joe Hockey has reached out to small business to assure them he understands the nuisance of red tape, after he and his family were unable to put two tables together at his local pizza restaurant because of council laws.
The comments come after a report released this week shows Australian business were drowning in $155 million of self-imposed red tape.
Launching the Abbot government’s spring red tape repeal day yesterday, Hockey used an anecdote of visiting his local pizza store in north Sydney to assure small business owners he has felt the pain of excessive regulation.
“I took my kids to a little park up the road and there’s a pizza shop there and we met up with another family … [there were] two tables outside [with] three chairs on one table, four on the other,” Fairfax reports Hockey as saying.
“I went to put the two tables together and the owner of the pizza shop came out and said ‘I’m sorry Mr Hockey, you’re not allowed to do that, the council regulation prevents you putting the two tables together’.”
“There were eight of us, so I went inside to get another chair and they said, ‘Sorry Mr Hockey, they’ve said you can only have seven chairs [outside], not eight’.”
Hockey went on to say he then “exploded”, calling the local mayor to complain.
“I want you to know that the Treasurer of Australia feels the same pain you do … that’s what I’m trying to say.”
SmartCompany’s sister publication Crikey attempted to reach the pizza shops in the northern Sydney suburbs of Hunters Hill and Lane Cove yesterday, and while none of the stores could remember serving the Treasurer, they did confirm there was an ongoing issue with tables on footpaths in the area.
Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany the Treasurer had simply experienced a common occurrence for most small business owners.
“We’ve been telling Hockey this for years, when he was small business minister he took no notice,” says Strong.
“He didn’t listen, but when his pizza is affected, well that’s a whole different story.”
Strong argues Hockey’s reaction in the pizza shop is out of proportion to his behaviour towards small business, given the context of his move to scrap the instant tax write-off earlier this year, which he says adversely affected around two million Australian small businesses by backdating the changes.
“What does he say to the pizza shop owner that has purchased a new pizza oven believing he could use the instant tax write-off, only to find out the bloke sitting out the front eating his pizza has backdated the changes.”