24 February 2017
Transcript - #2017005, 2017

Interview with Nick Lowther, ABC Western Plains, Dubbo

Joint interview with
Mark Coulton MP
Federal Member for Parkes

SUBJECTS: Michael McCormack's small business roadshow, penalty rates, small business tax cuts, confidence in regional small business, fires in the Warrumbungle Shire

PRESENTER:

Penalty rates are front and centre of political debate with the decision yesterday of the Fair Work Commission. The Minister for Small Business, Michael McCormack, has been in Dubbo alongside the Member for Parkes Mark Coulton. Minister, good morning.

McCORMACK:

Good morning Nick.

PRESENTER:

And Mark Coulton, good morning.

COULTON:

Good morning Nick, good to see you again.

PRESENTER:

Nice to see you too.

Now first of all Minister you have been talking with small business yesterday – fortuitous timing with all the discussion about penalty rates. What were some of the things you have been hearing? What's the reaction on that change in penalty rates?

McCORMACK:

Small business is hopeful that the announcement yesterday by the Fair Work Commission will enable them to in many cases, open their shops and trade on a Sunday and in others perhaps even employ more staff. Because they tell me they are inhibited from employing other people and that penalty rates are a big hit to their bottom line and they just feel... I went to a small, little country town in my electorate the day before yesterday and none of the shops in the main street actually open on that Sunday because the coffee shop doesn't open. And the coffee shop doesn't open because of penalty rates. Other factors as well, but mainly penalty rates. The small business community is telling me – and have told me, actually, since I have become the Small Business Minister last July – that the number one thing that is working against them are the penalty rates.

PRESENTER:

Now, looking at small business confidence through the area. Obviously this is now a discussion to encourage more full-time/part-time employment, but there are other businesses saying they are not yet in that position. What is the general feeling with increasing employment in small business currently?

McCORMACK:

Well, there's more casual employment too. Small business is telling me that if they do get some breaks – i.e. the lowering of the company tax rate, i.e. an extension, perhaps of the instant asset write-off, and yesterday's announcement – we know that small business when they get a bit of money, when they get a bit of a better cash flow, they reinvest it back into their business. They actually expand their businesses by way of investment, by hiring that young person who may not have otherwise been hired, even perhaps the older Australian. So that's what I think yesterday's announcement could lead to and at the end of the day, the workers affected, they are still going to be getting penalty rates. They are still going to be getting comparable Saturday penalty rates. So they are not missing out altogether and it's also important to know, I suppose – as you said in your introduction – that it is only for some sectors. There are only four awards out of 122 across the nation which are affected. So for nurses and for many other industry sectors – almost all other industry sectors – they are not going to be affected at all by this decision made by the independent umpire.

PRESENTER:

Now I would like to talk about company tax cuts in just a moment, just while I can speak to you about the Fair Work Commission's decision… this is a decision by the Fair Work Commission.

McCORMACK:

Which was set up by Labor when it was last in Government.

PRESENTER:

However, it has been used as a bit of a missile as such in the media this morning. Using words like 'WorkChoices', using words that were around ten years ago that took the Coalition out of power. As a Minister yourself, how confident are you this decision will land the right way with the Australian people?

McCORMACK:

We only have to look at the words Bill Shorten used last year on Neil Mitchell's 3AW – and when asked three times if he would accept the independent umpire's decision on penalty rates, he said yes. Whatever that decision was. Now, shifty Bill can't now shift the blame. It is out. It's a decision by an independent umpire, established by the Labor Government and a Commissioner appointed by the Labor Government. So we have to accept their decision – they are put there to review these things – also set up by Labor when they were in Government and so it's a decision that's taken several years to reach, they looked across six awards and they have made a determination on four. For workers who were used to getting the penalty rates, and they have been adjusted now to be more comparable with Saturday rates, I understand. I feel for those people – I do. As the Small Business Minister I do think it will lead to increased productivity and growth within the sectors and I do think it will lead to wider growth in country towns, such as that one I mentioned – Lockhart – where places will open because the coffee shop can open.

PRESENTER:

Minister for Small Business, Michael McCormack, joining us on ABC Western Plains. Jobs and growth was a big focus for the Coalition throughout the 2016 election. Company tax cuts, small business now saying, 'put up; begin now to deliver'. What is on the table now for small business and when will it be delivered?

McCORMACK:

Well, our Ten Year Enterprise Tax Plan – I prefer to call it our small business tax cut plan – is in the Parliament at the moment. The roadblock is Labor. We are trying to get the crossbenchers across the line as well. We want to reduce company tax to 27.5 per cent, not just for those companies which are currently receiving it but also for an additional tens of thousands of small businesses, many of them across western NSW in the electorate of Mark Coulton. We want to increase the threshold for turnover to $10 million; it's $2 million at the moment. You know, just because you might be turning over $5 million does not mean to say you are making that amount of money. And so there are tens of thousands of small businesses which are backing themselves. Businesses which are doing it tough, working long hours, we want to give them a break we also want those additional 90,000 small businesses which we think should be categorised as such to be able to take advantage of the instant asset write-off. That's where they can buy stainless steel serveries if they are in the hospitality sector, an iPad or whatever the case might be, up to $20,000. I would like to see that programme extended beyond June 30 but we will have to wait and see what's in the budget. But small business is the backbone of the economy. Mark Coulton represents – and represents very well – upwards of 16,000 small businesses across the western plains. They are so diversified but they are backing themselves. They have that entrepreneurial spirit ad they are also taking a risk. We want to help them have a go.

PRESENTER:

Mark Coulton, Member for Parkes, yesterday obviously you bright the Minister along to talk small business and confidence as well. They are beginning to cry out, shout out for change in policy and you've discussed this is currently being held up. Where is there frustration level, sitting on these changes?

COULTON:

I think there was recognition of what's happened. This instant asset write-off for assets under $20,000 has been a big boost to a lot of the country towns I visit and represent. Some of the stuff in the ag white paper – accelerated depreciation for silos, grain storage, water, fencing, that's generated a lot of commercial activity in a lot of the towns in my electorate. But I think – to be honest – the biggest discussion we had yesterday was around red tape. The fact that lodging tax returns, complying with State and Federal legislation, things along those lines were probably the biggest complaint. But there was a pretty good air of optimism. Michael is in town to open the new premises for Rivwest Finance – they have moved into bigger premises, put on more staff, so if the finance industry has confidence and is doing well that generally means there is commercial activity happening right across the patch. We need to keep going on that. If every small business put on one extra worker in my electorate, there would not be enough people here to fill the job. So that's a good statistic to keep in mind.

PRESENTER:

Finally, Mark Coulton, we are about to speak to the Mayor of the Warrumbungle Shire Council. Earlier this week you did speak about assistance – low-interest loans, however they are asking for Category 'C' disaster assistance and it's not been yet declared. Where are those talks up to?

COULTON:

So Category 'A' and 'B', they were pretty well decided on Monday, the day after, so that's pretty quick. Category 'C' is then on information compiled on the losses, the damage, reports that come in from Local Government, the NSW Department of Ag and others, so that's the process that's going through and then the State Government comes to the Federal Government with a request based on that. So I assume that process is going. What I am talking about is more some of the facilities available for long-term, low-interest loans because – frankly – a lot of the disaster relief is designed around people that have lost their personal effects but have still got their job. What we've got out there is going to be a long-term recovery for people. They might have lost fences, the livestock, but they've lost any pasture they've got. So there's a couple of levels and I'll be following up when I speak with Minister Keenan about where we're going with the Cat 'C'.

PRESENTER:

Member for Parkes Mark Coulton and Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack, thank you.

COULTON:

Thanks.

McCORMACK:

Thank you.