Good morning. Thanks for the warm welcome and thank you to our conference hosts:
- Business Enterprise Centre Australia;
- Business Innovation and Incubation Australia and;
- The National New Enterprise Incentive Scheme Association.
It's terrific to be here in Melbourne this morning for the start of this Small Business Development Conference.
This year's theme – Innovation through Entrepreneurship in Small Business – is right on the money. It is consistent with the Government's focus, and exactly what we need to grow and diversify the economy.
We all come from a variety of industry sectors and different parts of the country, but what we all have in common is that we're excited about small business.
You are trainers, facilitators and mentors. As the new Small Business Minister, I'm driven and inspired daily by the extraordinary strength, resilience and possibility the sector encompasses.
I'm also delighted to serve as the first Small Business Minister who is a member of The Nationals.
As a country MP I understand the important contribution small business makes to regional towns and cities and the benefits that flow well beyond the counter or farm gate into our communities.
Having owned and operated my own small business in Wagga Wagga for more than eight years, I understand the challenges and opportunities faced by small business and just how important it is to shop and buy locally.
I will be a strong advocate for small business and do what I can to encourage and support the sector to continue to prosper and grow.
Roughly $340 billion a year is contributed by small business to the economy, and four in ten jobs. It's an immense contribution, but of course it's so much more than that – it's a livelihood.
I've already seen so much of the energy and passion and dedication which drive 2.7 million Australian small businesses. And let me tell you, I share it.
It's the small businesses we all depend on to keep things humming.
They make our local communities tick and draw our country towns and cities together.
I'm proud to be part of a Coalition Government which has small business front of mind a- s the Prime Minister has stridently indicated.
We want to make Australia the best place in the world to start and run a small business.
Today I want to talk about what we're doing to make that a reality, and take a close look at some of the ways the Government is enabling and supporting small businesses to thrive, particularly by encouraging innovation.
As I said, we're making it as easy as possible for people to run a business – taking the headache out of interactions with government agencies, and clearing away some of the roadblocks for them to grow and employ more people.
But we're also making it easier to start a small business.
Because we know that new businesses, with fresh ideas, are exactly what we need to help our economy prepare for the future.
Ideas are how we change and make a difference to the world and Australians have a lot of them.
All it takes is the spark of an idea and the courage to chase it.
That's what innovation is all about.
The sky is the limit and our opportunities endless.
And the Turnbull-Joyce Government is helping Australians to pursue those ideas; to get a foot in the door and to create jobs and grow our economy in the process.
That's why we launched the billion-dollar National Innovation and Science Agenda — a package of measures that will promote a dynamic culture of entrepreneurship.
It will be easier than ever before for budding businesses to take a risk and reach for success.
For instance, raising equity finance will be easier with a 20 per cent non-refundable tax offset for investors.
There will also be a 10-year exemption on capital gains tax if investments are held for at least three years.
We're also making moves to strike a better balance between encouraging entrepreneurship and protecting creditors.
For example, changes to insolvency and bankruptcy laws like reducing the default bankruptcy period to one year and introducing a 'safe harbour' for directors from personal liability for insolvent trading.
Australians will also be encouraged to do collaborative research — to develop their ideas into new products and services for here and abroad — and to bring in new talent from overseas.
Our Incubator Support Program will help grow the next generation of innovative businesses, supporting new incubators in regions or sectors with high innovation potential.
And, of course, we'll be cutting red tape left and right to free up innovative businesses to grow.
In my own Riverina electorate I have seen an exciting and comprehensive embrace of 21st Century technology which meets consumers' needs and creates more local jobs and opportunities.
I'll share the examples with you of two innovative local women in Wagga Wagga.
Together, they have set Wagga Wagga and surrounds on a path to an embrace of 100 local start-ups by 2020. With their natural and infectious passion and a great deal of hard work, these Wagga Wagga women have made a success out of having an idea and the courage and ambition to back themselves.
Simone Eyles founded the mobile coffee app 365Cups in Wagga Wagga in 2011 and it has become an international sensation, selling more than one million coffees in countries across Australasia.
Every week, more coffee shops and more customers download this mobile app and use it as a means of getting the all-important caffeine hit, whether in town or on the road.
As a country MP with an electorate the size of Switzerland, I often use Simone's app to order a coffee from a local café as I drive through a town. The process is easy, quick and a practical response to the modern needs of consumers.
Just like Simone, Collingullie local Diana Somerville used her Defence experience and know-how from life on the farm to find opportunities to capture farmers' innovation and grow her own small business.
Her work has grown to include industry-leading conference at Wagga Wagga's Charles Sturt University with farmers and IT experts to see how farmers are embracing technology and digitising commodity exchanges to ensure their product can get sold sooner and at the best possible price for farmers.
Based at an "incubator", or hub, for start-ups in Wagga Wagga's CBD, the energy, enthusiasm and environment is something reminiscent of Google – complete with bean bags, open spaces and table tennis tables. And it is hard to not be inspired or encouraged by the optimism.
Innovation is just one part – a very important part – of our broader agenda for small business.
The last two federal budgets demonstrate our support for hardworking small businesses.
On the back of a groundbreaking 2015 Budget which included the record $5.5 billion Growing Jobs and Small Business package — the 2016 Budget was an encore performance.
In this year's Budget we announced that we will once again reduce the tax rate for small business — this time from 28.5 to 27.5 per cent — while also extending eligibility to businesses with an annual turnover of up to $10 million.
About 870,000 businesses will benefit — businesses that employ more than 3.4 million people.
But the Government also knows many small businesses aren't companies, so we've also extended the unincorporated small business tax discount.
The discount will now be available for unincorporated businesses with an annual turnover of less than $5 million — up from $2 million. It will also be increased from 5 per cent to 8 per cent.
And in this same vein, we're extending a range of tax concessions and simplified processes to those with an annual turnover of less than $10 million.
So from 1 July this year, more than 90,000 more businesses can access these small business concessions, including immediate deductibility for each asset costing less than $20,000.
That means if you're a farmer in need of a new mower, you'll benefit.
If you're a café owner in need of new tables and chairs, you'll benefit.
If you're a financial planner in need of a new printer, you'll benefit.
If you're a small business owner who wants to take that next step, you can be confident the Government is right behind you.
You can also be confident that the Coalition Government wants you to be able to play on a level field.
That means fairness and opportunity built into our competition laws.
As Small Business Minister, I'll be relentless in pursuing change to those laws.
Competition is the key to supporting innovation, boosting economic growth and jobs, and giving everyday Australians the chance to succeed.
That's why the Government is determined to replace Section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act — or the misuse of market power provision— with an entirely new one.
This will include a new provision that prevents bigger business with substantial market power from engaging in anti-competitive conduct.
It'll mean businesses, large and small, will be on an even footing. They'll compete on their merits.
This will ultimately lead to Australian business with unique ideas and innovation that determine who succeeds — not size.
Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS)
Those of you who provide business services, let me thank you for the great work you do and assure you the advice and helping hand you offer is valued by the Coalition Government.
This is particularly beneficial when it comes to responding to new and emerging issues that will have an impact on small businesses.
Together, we can make the services to small businesses across Australia more professional, more targeted and more accessible.
As well as incentives to innovate, tax breaks to encourage growth, and competition reforms that instil confidence, the Government provides a range of services for small businesses tailored to their needs.
One of those is the Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS) program, which delivers $6 million each year in grants.
This program shows our commitment to help small business – not only to advise and inform, but to listen to and learn from them.
Since it started in 2008, ASBAS has provided over half a million services to Australian small businesses.
Every initiative of ASBAS builds on the one before.
Together we can make the advice to small businesses across Australia more professional, more targeted and more accessible.
It's really a two-way street, where the feedback coming from small businesses determines what the program's priorities will be.
Consultations told us the five priority areas businesses needed help with: funding avenues and financial analysis; building your business; making the most of your talent and team; management capabilities; and digital engagement implementation.
That's what ASBAS providers are funded to focus on.
Through these business streams, you support enterprising small business.
From Box Hill TAFE, to the Business Enterprise Centre in my home town of Wagga Wagga, to Whitsundays Marketing and Development, to Many Rivers Microfinance in WA – you are the ones small business can turn to for tailored advice and support to get ahead.
One ASBAS initiative that rates a mention is the Northern Australia Tourism Initiative, which kicked off in June this year.
To help small businesses take advantage of some of the opportunities picked up in the Northern Australia White Paper, this initiative funds seven established not-for-profit small business advisory services to boost their interactions with tourism businesses in the north.
The total amount of funding is $4.2 million over three years. This new round is a vote of confidence in the ASBAS, and in small business generally.
A big agenda
Of course, as I said before, that's all just the tip of the iceberg.
There are many other changes the Government has made — or will be making.
We're simplifying the reporting of Business Activity Statements, which will be available for all small businesses from 1 July next year.
This will make it easier for business owners to classify transactions and prepare their statements.
It will ultimately reduce compliance costs for these businesses.
And, finally, I want to mention the Coalition Government will continue its crusade to cut the red tape and regulations which holds small business back.
Three years ago, we committed to reducing the costs of complying with red tape by $1 billion every year.
And so far we're well ahead of target, removing more than $4.8 billion worth.
You can also add to that the repeal of over 10,000 legislative instruments and over 3,600 spent and redundant Acts.
We've got a lot to do, but we have a huge incentive to do it.
The more we can do to support small business, the more we'll do for Australia's economy – and all the towns and cities and neighbourhoods and regions that create the sector's network.
The more we can encourage entrepreneurs and innovators, the closer we'll get to a future economy that's plugged in, switched on and raring to go.
The Coalition Government has small business front of mind.
Small Business is the engine room of the Australian economy and plays an important role driving jobs and growth across the nation.
Our country has great ideas and is the best place, bar none, to start and grow a small business.
Standing here this morning, I know I'm looking at people with the resilience, energy and ingenuity to bring them to life.
I look forward to seeing what you can do!
Thank you very much and all the very best for a rewarding conference.