4 April 2017
Transcript - #2017009, 2017

Joint Doorstop Interview, Small Business Roadshow, Wodonga, Victoria

Joint doorstop interview with
Senator Bridget McKenzie

SUBJECTS: Enterprise Tax Plan, tax cuts for small businesses, energy costs, penalty rates

BRIDGET McKENZIE:

[RECORDING STARTED] … talking to my National Party colleagues, talking to local small businesses right across the region, about what we’re doing as a Government to ensure they get on with working in their business. We want to get the clumsy hand of Government and all that red tape out of their businesses so they can get on with employing more people locally.

It has been a great week! Last week in the Senate we were able to pass the corporate tax changes which we will see over 800,000 businesses across Australia, employing over 6 million people, actually receive the corporate tax cut.

What we do know about small businesses – and we heard it here today – is that they don’t go buy that palatial holiday home or that Ferrari. They invest any savings that they make into their businesses and into employing and growing their local contribution. So we heard a lot of great comments today that I know the Minister will take away but I know you are also looking forward to hearing directly from him.

It’s also great to have the ACCC, ATO and the Small Businessman Ombudsman in town who are meeting with local businesses on a range of initiatives that we’re developing with Government to actually back small business in and the contribution they make to our local economy.

I will hand over to Michael McCormack, Small Business Minister.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Yeah well thanks Bridget and thanks for inviting me. Bridget is working hard as the Senator for Victoria for the National Party.

Inviting me down to Wodonga and Benalla, we have heard it from a number of small business people, some of whom actually shut their doors to come and listen and listen to the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman representative, to hear from the Australian Taxation Office representative and to hear from the Australian Competition Consumer Commission representative.

And what we heard today was they want to see more of a reduction in red tape. We are getting on the job of doing that already 5.8 billion dollars a year has from bureaucracy, from red tape. And business owners don’t need the onerous paperwork responsibilities when they go home and they shut the doors of their businesses for a day, so we’re getting on with the job of that.

They were delighted the Senate passed the – I call it the small business tax cuts – it’s actually called the Ten Year Enterprise Tax Plan, but it is a small business tax cut. What that will be able to do is increase the definition of a small business to $10 million turnover – so from $2 million to $10 million – and that takes place.

That will enable tens of thousands of more small businesses, a lot of them regionally, to take advantage of the instant asset write-off. To take advantage of the lowering of the company tax rate to 27.5cents in the dollar. That means that’s the lowest company corporate tax rate since 1967, so The Nationals in Government are getting on with the job lowering company tax rates, of making sure that red tape is cut through, to making sure that there’s such things as a simpler BAS.

So many small businesses have told The Nationals in Government that that’s what they want to see. As well, they want to make it more possible for small businesses to employ that younger Australian. We’re also doing that by the PaTH program – the Prepare, and Trial Hire programme – which enables young people to get that first start, to get that on the job training experience whilst not losing any of their income support.

It also enables the small business person to get a cash incentive – a $1000 incentive – to take on that person but also they hire them full time. After the 12 week period is up and they get a $10,000 wage subsidy. So that is a tremendous program which been bought about by The Nationals in Government.

I’m so delighted to be here with Bridget McKenzie who invited me to Wodonga and to Benalla to talk to small business owners. We know that 17,880 small businesses are going to be able to take advantage of that lowering of the company tax rate, that’s tremendous news for this region, and it’s tremendous news that they will be able to look to hiring more people, look to having more money in their pockets.

As Bridget said, they don’t put it in their pockets; they re-invest in their small business. So really delighted to have so many people here at Wodonga and looking forward to hearing what they have to say in Benalla

JOURNALIST:

What are some of the wants and needs of small businesses in regional areas, particularly around Wodonga and what not as opposed to those in metropolitan areas?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Well, small businesses in and around Wodonga are delighted at the fact we had actually brokered as a Coalition Government our trade agreements with South Korea, with China and Japan. We heard this morning – I asked the question how many businesses around here have taken advantage of that – and the answer to that was many.

And the fact that we have financial expert arrangements in place and the fact that we are negotiating with Indonesia and India to broker even more trade agreements, that’s good news for the farmers many of whom are obviously small business operators.

But also it has a direct flow-on-effect to High Street, Wodonga. It has a direct flow-on-effect to Benalla, a direct flow on effect to all the little small towns in and around the great north east of Victoria.

So, small business is booming agricultural-wise at the moment there’s obviously good advantages with the Defence White Paper which was bought down last year, but there’s good flow-on-effects from that, there’s good flow-on-effects from the tax cuts.

There’s a good vibe at the moment! I’m really delighted that this national small business road show is getting in, listening to small business people, hearing what they have to say, but more importantly than that, acting upon their concerns and I know I’ve had Bridget in my office many, many times bringing the concerns of small business owners and operators throughout Victoria but particularly in the north east to me and as a Government, and as Ministers, we are acting.

BRIDGET McKENZIE:

Can I just say, one of the things we did hear about today that was quite unique in comparison to city businesses was that the longevity of small businesses here in this region.

We heard from small business owners that have been open for 17, 18 years this morning and as even the Ombudsman stated, that is almost double what the average is!

So what we know is that in this region, communities are prepared to support local business and that is important now more than ever when we see that small businesses locally can be under attack not just from big multinationals but indeed online businesses. This is why as a Government we’ve also been looking at ensuring that if you are purchasing online from overseas you will have to pay your GST just like everybody else, whilst that not the panacea to some of the disruption that online purchasing has bought for local small businesses it will actually ensure they’re on a level playing field, which is important.

JOURNALIST:

You talk about action before you had a lot of opinions from local business owners today how are they be able to see that actually being implemented in government policy?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Well, they will be seeing the tax cuts! And they will be seeing the tax cuts very very soon. That’s money that they will be able to put back into their own businesses. They see the lowering of the company tax rate, they see the cutting through of the red tape, and they’ll be seeing a simpler BAS from 1 July onwards. The Business Activity Statements will be simpler so we’re getting on with the job, we’re listening, more importantly we’re acting as a Government and we’re making sure that every pathway to success for small business is there.

BRIDGET McKENZIE:

Can I just say, a lot of the initiatives that were raised today by the three agencies with local business, local businesses didn’t realise that as a Government we had a suite of options available to them to access to make doing business simpler and easier for them.

What we know about small business owners they’re very busy working in and on the business, rather than being able to actually attend to some of those administrative details within their small business. So we’ve got a suite of options we’ve already developed in response and that’s why this national roadshow that the Minister is travelling on at the moment is so important for communicating on the ground with small businesses, who until we arrived in town and the Minister outlined the initiatives we have done, did not actually know that they were occurring so that’s been a real positive by having the Minister and the agencies in town today.

JOURNALIST:

Speaking about the national aspect obviously you have been on the road for quite a few weeks now are there any issues raised today that you haven’t heard in any other previous meetings?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Energy costs is always something which wherever I go and whomever I speak to. It is an issue and certainly we’re developing Snowy Hydro 2.0, so we are going to supercharge, turbo charge, Turnbull-charge if you like, the Snowy Hydro.

So we’re getting on with the job of doing that and making sure that all the right studies are done into the Snowy Hydro to make sure that more than half a million homes, in addition to what we already have, can be powered by that renewal energy source.

But under Labor they want to introduce another carbon tax. Under Labor they want to make sure that coal-fired power stations are shut down.

We have an energy policy that is going to provide cheaper, more secure, and more available energy, so when you switch the switch on as a small business, as a family you get power. Under Labor that’s not going to be possible.

JOURNALIST:

Another issue over the past week is penalty rates. There was a vote in the Senate last week, when that issue comes to the lower house can we expect the Government to follow suit and perhaps back workers to keeping penalty rates?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

That’s a stunt bought on about by Labor and nothing more than a stunt.

Look at the Fair Work Commission. The Fair Work Commission made its decision having reviewed six out of 122 awards. They chose to change the awards of five commensurate with Saturday penalty rates.

For many small business owners, they have been reluctant to open on a Sunday because it is difficult to pay $45.00 an hour to someone to make coffee. They have to sell a lot of cups of coffee to make up that $45.00 an hour, let alone to actually make a profit for the day. So many small business owners and operators have told me that they don’t deliberately open on a Sunday because of the penalty rates situation.

Now the Fair Work Commission was put into place, established by Labor, the Commissioners were appointed by Labor and the review was created by Labor, so it is a little bit rich of Bill Shorten and his Labor mates to come out now having said that they will support the decision of Fair Work Commission, whatever the decision was, prior to the election and now to come out having the decision been made by the group they set up, because they don’t like the decision to say they are going to stop it.

Now I feel for those people who may take home a little bit less pay than what they otherwise would but the fact is the small business will actually employ more people as a result of this decision. It might be, it might well be, the fact that a young person gets their first job because of this decision. It might well be in fact it will be the fact that many more small business owners will open now on a Sunday and so that has got to be good for the economy, that’s got to be good for people who are going through, particularly regional towns looking to stop and do a bit of shopping do a bit of local shopping, putting money into local economies.

So to that end the Fair Work Commission has made its decision. It is as I say set up by Labor, a little bit rich for Bill Shorten who put in place many of the enterprise bargaining agreements which stopped his union members from actually getting higher paid conditions, a little bit rich of Bill Shorten to then come out and pull these Parliamentary stunts as I say the Fair Work Commission is an independent body operating at arm’s length of Government.

BRIDGET McKENZIE:

Just on that, I last week had the head of the Fair Work Commission Justice Ross in front of my Senate Estimates Committee and asked him this exact question.

They are an independent body and Parliament has no rights and should not be interfering with an independent Commission’s decision. This particular decision was taken by five Commissioners after receiving over 6,000 submissions, 143 people giving evidence and took nearly two years, there was no stone unturned by the Commission in coming to this decision. We support the decision and their role as an independent umpire around workplace relations.

On the substantive issue of penalty rates per say, locally if you’re a young person working in McDonald’s – a multinational company – you are paid less per hour, $8 per hour less, than if you’re employed by the local fish and chip shop. So if we are about backing small business and ensuring that there is competition, I’ll back small business every day.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

No. Thank you.