Mr McCormack, what kind of role do small businesses play in regional communities such as Bathurst?
It plays an absolutely integral role and a very important role. Not just in agriculture, but in all sorts of areas. These electorates – and particularly Andrew Gee’s and mine in the Riverina – are so diverse.
The fact we have been able to lower the small business tax rate to 27.5 per cent – the lowest it’s been in many, many decades, since World War II in fact – and the fact we have extended the instant asset write-off programme by 12 months means these small businesses, as diverse as they are, whether they’re in Bathurst or anywhere in the Calare electorate, or indeed anywhere in regional NSW or in fact country Australia, gives them a real boost. It gives them that ability to be able to do what they do at the moment, but also to expand, or to hire that young Australian, or that older Australian.
So we have really set a platform for small businesses to grow, to thrive and to succeed. I am really looking forward to coming to Bathurst again on the 4th of July to meet as many small business owners as I can, in conjunction with Andrew Gee. He’s a great MP and he’s really getting on with the job here in Canberra and he and I are looking forward to spending some more time in Bathurst.
As you mentioned, you’re the Federal Member for Riverina, how important is it for different electorates to work together to better their small businesses?
Oh, it’s crucial. That’s why The Nationals in Government have had such a good track record along with regional Liberal colleagues, of achieving for regional areas things they would not have otherwise had.
You only have to look across the landscape to see the new hospitals, the funding for schools – certainly fair and needs-based funding. But also the sorts of things we, together in the Federal Nationals’ team, we have done too; Barnaby Joyce’s recent announcement of the Regional Investment Corporation – the bank – headed in Orange in Andrew Gee’s electorate.
As a team we have been able to do so many things, like lower the small business tax rate to the lowest it’s been since World War II. We have done so many things. Inland rail – it’s an $8.4 billion investment, to get the inland rail which has been talked about for decades but no one has actually been able to achieve it. It will go from Melbourne to Brisbane. It will take product from Calare and Central West farm gate to Asian plate within a very small space in time. Previously it was just a pipe dream, but as a team we are delivering it.
What sort of an impact has the introduction of the NBN had on small businesses in regional areas?
It’s been a game-changer. We are rolling out the NBN right across the nation and I know it is progressing well in Andrew Gee’s electorate, and I know what a strident advocate Andrew has been for better connectivity.
For those areas which are still waiting to be connected, I appreciate the issues. But we make no apologies for the fact we did go to areas which had little or no connectivity first. We did that. We made sure as Nationals in Government that we looked after those areas which had very little connectivity.
And on a wider telecommunications basis, you look at the number of phone towers we have rolled out to ease those mobile blackspot areas which were so prevalent throughout regional NSW. We have been able to manage that programme, rolling out $220 million already, and building hundreds upon hundreds of towers. I know Andrew Gee’s electorate has benefited from that. I know certainly the Riverina and Central West in my electorate has benefited. I know we will continue to roll out mobile communications because it is so important.
It’s obviously going to be such a great opportunity for small businesses from our local community to – after the forum – be able to ask you questions and be able to get some answers from both the State and Federal Government.
Yes I very much look forward to attending with John Barilaro, who is not only the Deputy Premier, but also the NSW Small Business Minister. I get on very well with John. And certainly Andrew Gee and I talk about small business all the time.
I am looking forward to seeing as many people as possible during the day and visiting small businesses. Last time I was in Bathurst I spent some time with Andrew at the Simplot plant and we went to Oberon to call in on the local butcher and the newsagent. Being a former newspaper editor myself, I love to drop into local newsagents and have a chat. They are very much the lifeblood of local communities – them and the barbers and the hairdressers. They always know what’s going on! And the butcher shop owner had a wonderful premise there too.
Small business is doing pretty well at the moment. Certainly with the lowering of the tax rates and the instant asset write-off extension, but I know there is always more we can do. I always love to hear the feedback and things like how we can cut through red tape. Ways that we can improve Government policy, to see how we can help.
At the end of the day it always starts with those conversations you have over the counter, over the farm gate, when you go on visits such as this. So I am very much looking forward to coming to Bathurst with Andrew Gee and not so much talking, but doing a lot of listening, and certainly hearing what Bathurst small business has to say.
Well we are certainly looking forward to having you back in our patch, Minister. Thanks for your time.