6 July 2017
Transcript - #2017047, 2017

Interview, 2NM Muswellbrook

JOURNALIST:

I’m joined in the studio by the Federal Small Business Minister Michael McCormack and Senator for Hunter, John Williams, good Morning.

JOHN WILLIAMS:

Good morning Steven

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Glad to be here.

JOURNALIST:

Good to have you in Muswellbrook. Now Minister you’re here for a small business forum. What are small business people telling you in the Upper Hunter about how things are ticking along at the moment?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

There are some issues and energy prices is of course one of those, but they’re also delighted that the tax rate for those small businesses up to $10 million turnover is now 27.5%. That’s the lowest it has been since 1940.

They’re also telling us that they’re able to buy their capital equipment and write it off instantly for another 12 months. Every small business I go into, they’ll either ask me more about the program and ask me how do they get involved in it, or they’ll show me the equipment that they’ve actually bought and purchased that they’re using to get more customers through the door. It sets off a chain reaction in communities because they buy equipment, they buy it from a local supplier, they get the local installer to put it in and then they see how it benefits their business.

They’re also telling me that red tape reduction is necessary and whilst the Government has done a lot in that space, $5.8 billion already cut since we took over Government in 2013, they want to see more.

I welcome their feedback because I’m on a listening tour not a talking tour. It’s a listening tour and I’m always willing to hear feedback. It’s great to hear it from Wacka Williams and certainly I know he’s a fierce advocate for small business, but it’s great to hear it from the people themselves.

JOURNALIST:

Wacka, you’re not backwards in coming forward ever, that’s the sort of thing we like about you. What is it like to actually have a small business minister that actually is from the bush?

JOHN WILLIAMS:

It’s good, and Michael’s a good friend of mine.

Look Steven, we’ve got an obligation to help small business in every way we can. One of the problems we’ve got today and one of the problems that we’ve heard about, is that there are grants available - state or federal level - to help small businesses kick off get going and grow, but the red tape, the paper work, the huge effort has got to go into getting those grants and the applications filled in. That’s one problem we’ve heard today.

We’ve had Kate Carnell with us, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman. She’s a good woman Kate, fearless supporter of small business. What’s her job? If you’ve got a problem with small business, something’s going wrong, you’re being bullied, you’re being stamped on? Go and talk to Kate Carnell. That’s her job. And good to have Michael Johnsen there our State Member as well, because we talked about some state issues.

It’s a tough game being either employed by small business, being on a farm or being a business myself all my life before politics, 9 years ago Steven. It’s a tough gig, it’s hard to compete. The big end of town that make life difficult for you, not doing you any favours in any way I can tell you. They buy cheap and they sell cheap. So it’s good to have Michael here in the Hunter to hear the issues of small business and then go back and see what we can actually do to help them. So it’s alright to talk about it, but we’ve got to deliver the results.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, one of the biggest things for small businesses at the moment in time - and is being talked about is obviously - the Sunday penalty rates. The opposition seem to be giving out mixed messages on that.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

The decision was made by the Fair Work Commission, a commission set up by Labor, established in 2009 when Labor was in Government, the commissioner appointed by Labor and the review process started by Labor. They made a determination and it affects 5 out of 122 awards, and it’s going to be phased in over 3 years.

I like to think that Peter Strong has it right. He is the Chief Executive Officer of the Council of Small Business of Australia. He says that it’s going to create 10,000 jobs. That’s 10,000 jobs that would otherwise not have been there. Little businesses, particularly in regional Australia, opening up on a Sunday when they perhaps would not have otherwise opened, because it’s hard to find $45 an hour to pay for somebody to pour coffee and I know in my electorate there are little towns that aren’t open on a Sunday simply because of the penalty rates situation.

If Peter Strong is right, and I’m hoping that he is, that creates thousands upon thousands more jobs. That’s got to be good for the economy.

JOURNALIST:

The test will be in the pudding right here in the Upper Hunter. I can tell you that come lunch time and on Saturday afternoon, they can’t get their cup of coffee. Hopefully that changes, even from a dynamic of how small towns operate, to have these businesses open it gives them I guess an air of activity. And perception is a big thing in small business.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Bill Shorten signed off with the best of the unions through the enterprise bargaining agreements. Why is it fair that McDonalds and KFC are paying their workers less than the coffee shop down the road, the café down the road? Their penalty rates are not being slashed, they’re commeasuring it with Saturday rates, and it does level the playing field.

JOURNALIST:

Wacka first, I’m amazed that you said it was only 9 years. We’re thinking you were a veteran. You’ve had a little bit to say at the moment about the infighting that’s happening on the other side of the Coalition fence. This is a good message that we’re trying to sell obviously that the policies that have been put in place by the Government will help small businesses. How do you get that cut-through? How do you get that message across when all anyone else wants to talk about is Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott?

JOHN WILLIAMS:

That’s why I was having a whinge the other day Steven in the media. Division is equal to death in politics. That’s just a fact of life. Anyone who’s involved with politics, who follows politics, division is death. We’ve seen division in the Liberal party which is so annoying, because I know that there are good hard working Members of Parliament, Luke Howarth, Ann Sudmalis, Michelle Landry our good friend up at Capricornia, they’re gone. This is a free road into the Lodge for Bill Shorten if this division doesn’t stop. That’s why I said the other day I’m sick of it. I’ve had a gut-full of it. We’re elected to run the country, let’s get on with our job. That’s just the message that came from me. I’m sure many of my National Party colleagues agree and a lot of the Liberals as well. Stop the fighting, stop the in-house bickering and do your job for the betterment of all Australians. I hope that messages is going through.

JOURNALIST:

Michael, as a member of the ministry, obviously you’re bound by cabinet solidarity and unity as much as anybody. Tony Abbott makes a lot of sense in what he’s saying. How do you encompass that message without generating disunity? How do you listen to the broad spectrum of views coming out of a broad spectrum of views that are coming out of, and right across the Coalition? Because there’d be differences on your side I’d imagine. All of those voices need to be heard without destroying the ship. How do you do that?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

I’m listening to the people that elect me and I’m listening to those small business owners and operators right across the country. We’ve got a good message to tell. We’ve really achieved in our first 12 months since the election. We’ve done such a good job and the recent Budget, schools’ needs based funding, health outcomes, record spending in that regard, small business tax cuts, extension to the instant asset write-off, inland rail $8.4 billion, they’re the sorts of things I want to talk about.

People don’t want to listen about politicians naval gazing and talking about themselves. They want to hear about lowering the cost of living pressures on them. That’s what I’m talking about, more importantly; listening to. I want to listen, I want to hear, I want to get the feedback and I want to make sure that that goes into policy mix when we are determining policy, not talking about ourselves.

JOURNALIST:

Wacka, what more needs to be done out in the bush?

JOHN WILLIAMS:

There are a lot of positive things at the moment. Beef prices have been wonderful for several years now. Wool prices at record highs, lamb prices are great, mutton prices are great, some of the crop prices are good and wheat and barley are not very good at all. We need more people here Steven. We’ve got this whole thing about housing affordability, the prices of houses in Melbourne and Sydney. The crazy thing is, it’s not the house in Sydney that’s expensive it’s the land the house is sitting on. So what do we have per capita more than any place on earth? Land. So we’re stacking them all in the cities - we need to get those people out to country areas. That’s why we’re shifting the APVMA to Armidale for decentralisation. People build population, the more people we can get here the more doctors, the more nurses, the more school teachers - you name it - the more people working in the shops. So I think one of the big problems we face is the centralisation. Of not stacking our country and all of its people into the cities. Get them out to the regional areas. We’ve got the room, we’ve got the water, we’ve got the space and we’ve got the good people to welcome them.

JOURNALIST:

It’s one thing moving government departments but we need private enterprise. How do you encourage that?

JOHN WILLIAMS:

If you say to people ‘move out’ and they say ‘where do we get a job?’, if you move people out with jobs, they’ve already got the jobs. The APVMA going to Armidale, the Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority, so we get them out there with a job, that’ll grow the jobs around. As I said, population grows jobs. I say to everyone I talk to in Sydney, ‘why don’t you move out to country areas?’ Our kids are here, our friends are here. We need to move the lot out. Well the all-Australian dream of owning your home is becoming impossible in the cities. I think the biggest challenge we’ve got is decentralisation and a good example Steven; what did Canberra have 100 years ago? Sheep, cattle, dairy, cattle and that’s about it. Look at it now. Canberra is the classic example of decentralisation. It can be done. We’ve got the room. We’ve got the space. We’ve got the good people. My message to everyone in the city is simple; move out to the bush.

JOURNALIST:

And get over all the roundabouts we have in Canberra as well.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Barnaby Joyce, the Nationals leader, he’s got a decentralisation agenda. Dr David Gillespie our Nationals colleague, the Assistant Health Minister just yesterday announced regional training hubs, which is going to improve many medical facilities and services right throughout the bush. We are on a decentralisation agenda. Rural Industries Research Development Corporation moved into Wagga Wagga in my home town. Build it and they will come. That’s what we’re doing.

JOHN WILLIAMS:

And the Regional Health Commissioner I might add just made it through the Senate. A health commissioner will be appointed and the job of that commissioner will be regional health issues. Go back to the Ministers, state and federal, and a frank assessment; ‘you’ve got this wrong, you’ve got to fix this, this is how you write it’. I think the regional health commissioner is a big issue that David Gillespie’s brought in.

JOURNALIST: 

One last thing before I let you go Minister. The forum that you held today, you said it was a listening tour. What has the response been, largely positive or negative?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Absolutely positive and the fact that we are bringing those government agencies, the ATO, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, certainly Kate Carnell who’s an absolute star as the Ombudsman. People really appreciate seeing those sorts of people. As I say, I’m the Small Business Minister. I’m the first small business minister to come from the regions. I’ve really put a regional perspective to this portfolio and I think regional people like to have those sorts of agencies in front of them so they can question them, so that they can hear answers from them, but more importantly, so that they can give them feedback. 

JOURNALIST:

Minister thank you for your time and thank you Senator Williams.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Thank you.

JOHN WILLIAMS:

Thank you.