23 October 2017
Transcript - #2017059, 2017

Interview with Matthew Tukaki

Subjects: Small business, innovation, digital economy.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

Welcome back. I'm joined on the line by Small Business Minister Michael McCormack. He's always out on the road talking to small business, and after our conversation with Lauren Calvisi, the stay-at-home mum who's just started up her own business in Far North Queensland - selling cakes to mums, who would've thought? - Michael joins me on the line to talk about small business. Mate, welcome to the show.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

You and I have had a few cakes in our time, Matt, and our portly figures show it.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

I've had far too many cakes. That's why I've got a face made for radio [laughs]. They won't let me on the TV. I can't fit on the camera. Hey, but look …

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

[Interrupts] They say politics is Hollywood for ugly people too, so I've probably- in that regard. But anyway. All good.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

So basically, the thing we've got in common is never work with animals and small children in the film industry [laughs].

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Indeed, indeed, but well done to Lauren. That's great. That's really good to hear, the fact that she's out there having a go and our government loves to hear stories like this, because it's people like her and others who are- they're backing themselves, they're getting out, they've got a spark of an idea. We want to help them, and that's why we've got an innovation agenda. Innovation keeps us competitive, and keeps people busy and they're taking advantage of our tax incentives, lowest tax rates since 1940. It's all good.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

Well it's interesting, because we often just talk about what's going on in the big cities, and you know I love the regions …

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

You do. 

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

… and Far North Queensland is pretty much it for me now, but Lauren is a single mum, solo mum, two young kids. Noah, I think, has just gone on to start school, and she said to me off air: I don't want to be just one of those other people that waits for their kids to turn 18 and don't start a career, and why not start a small business? And let's talk about that, because you get around the regions. There's a lot of activity going on.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I hear stories like that every day, and people who are starting small, often on their own, they're cooking and baking and doing all those things, often on their kitchen table, and then they rent a little premises and then it gets bigger and better, and more demand comes in, and these are the sorts of success stories which ultimately are then exporting to the world, and we've got those free trade agreements with China, with Japan and South Korea, and those- it's all feeding into this success story that can be anyone, even in the regions.

And you mentioned, you know, when the regions are strong, so too is our nation, and when we've got people like Lauren backing themselves, that's what we want. And I know that with the Regional Online Heroes, that's conducted- it's an award conducted by the Regional Australia Institute. Last year, the winner, a leading agtech company based in Toowoomba. There you go, Queensland again. National competition, they started out very, very small, now they employ 20 staff and serve 22,000 customers, creating digital solutions for Aussie farmers. They're the sorts of things. They start small, just like Lauren, spark of an idea, had a bit of get up and go, entrepreneurial drive and vision and there you go. Next, the world's your oyster.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

That's right. She'll be selling cakes to China any moment, you watch. Hey, let's talk about this innovation agenda, because it is really important. I mean, one of the best things we can do, it appears to me anyway, and the feedback we definitely get from our listeners, is that to provide the platform through which small business can grow. You know, we've got the free trade agreements. There's a lot of activity going on in that area. We've got the rollout of the NBN, we've got technology and the internet and all sorts of things being boosted in our regions; this is very much about making an environment through which small business can grow, right?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Look, indeed, and just last month the Government issued a consultation paper inviting comment on revamping our digital economy, and people can access that by going to industry.gov.au/digitaleconomy but the strategy, most importantly, is focusing on ways and means that governments, businesses and the community, businesspeople, those entrepreneurs, those start-ups can seize the benefits of digital transformation. Our start-up sector was valued at $568 million last year. That's a jump of 73 per cent, so nearly three-quarters, and research from the various universities around the countryside highlights just how vital the start-up sector is to the Aussie economy, and there's really good partnerships, particularly between regional universities and start-ups, fast becoming a character of small business right across regional Australia.

We've got the Landing Pad initiative, we've got the Entrepreneurs Program, we've got innovation connections, incubator support; there's all sorts of help out there, and I'd urge and encourage people to go on to business.gov.au, see what they can- see what help that the Federal Government can provide, as well as the state governments who are getting on board, and there's lots of help out there but you've got to have that get up and go, just like Lauren, and I know there's plenty of people out there who've got it.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

You do. Roll out of bed, people. Get on the wagon and start putting a motor in it.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

There's no biz like small biz.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

That's right. Now, just some of those websites again: industry.gov.au/digitaleconomy. Another one, get on the old Googly[sic] machine and have a look for the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme. That's been in operation for a couple of decades now. You might be unemployed, you might have a job- sorry, a small business idea that you want to hitch to your wagon. There's an opportunity to get some support through the NEIS.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

There's help out there.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

Absolutely, there's plenty of help out there.  Hey, Michael McCormack, always wonderful having you on the show.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Thank you Matt. Talk again soon.