Minister, you’re here in Port Pirie with business owners and others. What did you learn?
It’s great to be here in Grey with Rowan Ramsey. There are 14,888 small and medium businesses in what is the fourth-largest electorate in Australia. And Rowan does a fantastic job for and on behalf of each and every one of those small businesses.
Today we had a forum in Port Pirie where lots of things were discussed. Not the least of which was payment terms and times. It was good to have the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, at the policy forum to talk about the inquiry she conducted. It showed that in some cases small businesses are having to wait up to 90 days, or even longer as well, to receive their payments from big business.
And in the case of the South Australian Government, they have had in the 2015-16 financial year, more than half a billion dollars of their payments to small and medium enterprises being after 30 days. So that means they were late. And it is not good enough that some Governments and big business are using small business as a bank. It’s not good enough that they are taking so much time, delaying payment to small businesses.
You know, small businesses still have to pay their staff. They still have to turn the lights on and pay the power bills. They still have to pay their rates. And they need cash flow. Small businesses which have to wait upwards of 90 days to receive payments from a Government is reprehensible. Let alone other big businesses taking that amount of time to pay small businesses.
Small business really is the backbone of the economy. They do a fantastic job. Small business is such a diverse sector. For these businesses to have to wait so long to get paid is simply not fair.
Did you hear about this from the people who turned up today? Did anyone express frustration with wait times?
They certainly did. There was one person who said he had $60,000 in outstanding debts from the South Australian Labor Government. That is not good enough.
Federally, Bill Shorten is very anti-small business, because he doesn’t want to give them a tax cut. We have lowered the company tax rate to 27.5 per cent but Labor opposed that. So Labor has some answering to do when it comes to each and every one of their MPs going into their electorates. They should explain to their small businesses why they do not want to give them a tax cut.
In fact, Labor talks about tax cuts for millionaires. These small businesses aren’t millionaires. They are hardworking, family enterprises which are getting out and doing a job. They spend long hours at work and often when they go home, they spend more hours in paperwork. That’s why the Federal Coalition is working to reduce red tape for small businesses.
But here in South Australia, not only does the Weatherill Labor Government have an unrealistic view on energy. I have heard from small businesses about the power going off when they need it the most. But also small businesses have to wait too long for the South Australian Government to pay its bills.
So what is the next step then? You have outlined who is responsible, what happens now?
Well it’s up to the South Australian Government to follow the Federal Government’s lead. We are paying 97 per cent of our bills to small business on time. It should be 100 per cent, but we are working towards that. We pay within 30 days or we pay interest. That’s a good start.
The Business Council of Australia has a voluntary code where they are trying to impress upon big business to sign up to their code and say they too are going to pay the bills within 30 days or pay interest. That’s also a good start.
I have asked the Treasury to look at what we can do too. If it comes to the need for legislation, we will see what we can do to make big business to pay their bills on time.
Will you as the Minister meet with the South Australian Government at all?
I am in contact with all my State Government counterparts. This fact which shows they are so far in arrears to small business on payments is actually mind-blowing. It really is. The State Government needs to step up.
I appreciate there’s a State election coming up and I think people will be mindful of something like this. Small business should be front and centre of everyone’s mind as it is in ours.
But again it is great to be here in Port Pirie. It is a great community . I can see that they are upgrading their main street and certainly as a country MP I understand how important it is to get the tourists through. If we can beautify main streets, high streets and the other streets, that also helps to back small business.
We are backing small business each and every day. We want to make sure that those small businesses which are great little enterprises right throughout regional South Australia are looked after. We back them all the way. We want to make sure that there is every pathway for them to succeed.
And this nationwide small business roadshow – I am taking it right throughout Australia. It doesn’t matter who the local MP is – National, Liberal, Labor, Green – I don’t care. I want to meet small business owners. It’s them I am coming to meet with. I want to hear from them about the good things they are doing. I want to hear from them about what more we can do even better as a Federal Government to help.
Small business is the ones who will help pay back the debt. They are the ones who employ half the nation’s workforce. And we want to make sure they have every reason and every measure to succeed in the future.
Great – thanks so much.