So Michael tell us why you are here as part of the small business roadshow.
The national small business roadshow is getting out and about, across the countryside and certainly in regional areas such as Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, to listen to the small business owners and operators right throughout Australia. But particularly in the regions.
That is where we know there is a diversity of small businesses who have certain issues and concerns that they need to raise with Government officials, with the ACCC, with the Tax Office, with the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, but as well as the Minister.
So I have been really keen to hear from as many small businesses as possible. And there are more than 12,000 small businesses in the Cowper electorate which are going to take advantage of the small business tax cuts which are now going to – because the definition of a ‘small business’ has extended to $10 million turnover – to be able to take advantage of the instant asset write off.
What they tell me is that they want to see even more red tape lifted. What they want to see is introduction of the simplification of the BAS. So they are good news stories for small businesses along the Coffs Coast. They are really good news stories for the Mid North Coast. And it is really important that we get out – as Government representatives – to listen to the issues and when we go back to Canberra, as Luke Hartsuyker and I do, to advocate and assist for and on their behalf.
So you have been chatting with small business owners today. What was the reaction to the latest range of packages you’ve got?
Well they have been obviously welcomed. The tax cuts for small business, the extension of the instant asset write off to businesses up to a $10 million turnover – backdated to 1 July last year, have been really welcomed.
This is going to ease a lot of burden for small businesses. It’s going to enable them to have more money to be able to reinvest in their business. To hire that young Australian. Perhaps even an older Australian. But importantly to employ more people to make their businesses grow even further.
Alright, so turning to the 457 visas, the new announcement made today. Can you summarise what the new announcement is for locals?
Well the Prime Minister is today going to make sure that the 457 visa situation is as it should be.
To make sure that foreign workers coming into Australia are not taking the jobs of Australians. So he is going to have a bit more to say about this in coming weeks and months, but we want to make sure that regional jobs are there for regional Australians. That people coming in from overseas are not taking the jobs which should be held by Australians.
So we are obviously going to have more to say, but on the Coffs Coast it’s important that Australians – that locals – are able to take the jobs that are there for them. And they are not being filled by people coming in from overseas.
And, of course, it’s a situation where Luke Hartsuyker has done some incredible work to make sure that youth unemployment is lowered on the Coffs Coast. It’s certainly good to see – a pleasant surprise, you might say – at the amount of building activity around town.
As our national Small Business Roadshow here in Coffs has heard today, things are happening. Things are happening in Coffs Harbour. Things are happening on the Mid North Coast. And that’s because of the good policies of the Federal Government. We want to do more but we also want to put the policies in place to help ensure jobs are there for Australians first. We want to make sure that Australians can fill those jobs so we will be upskilling Australians even further.
And I know that the work Luke Hartsuyker did when he was a Minister in the Employment area, I know the work he is doing now as the Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister. He knows full well that there are jobs there that should be being filled by Australians. He knows full well how important it still is to get foreign workers to fill some jobs that simply cannot be filled by Australians, but we also know that we have to put Australians first when it comes to jobs. We also know just how important it is that those jobs are being filled – those employment opportunities are being filled – by Australians. That’s why the Prime Minister will have more to say about this in the coming weeks and months.
But one of the criteria of this 457 visa was that people in regional areas and employers could advertise a position and maybe there would be Australians qualified for the job, but that they wouldn’t work in regional areas. So that was one of the reasons the 457 visa was sold to regional Australia, was that we would then attract those people. So how was it exactly that it was failing, if it had to be advertised first before you could recruit a foreigner?
Because what happened under the previous Government was that all sorts of jobs – whether they were nursing jobs, in the medical field, in takeaway shops – they were being filled by foreign workers coming in and taking the jobs that should otherwise be filled by Australians.
Now Bill Shorten, the now-Opposition Leader when he was the Employment Minister, was the champion of 457 workers. He gave – through the various ways and means that the Labor Government promoted – jobs that should have been filled by Australians to foreign workers. Now this should not happen and will not happen under the Turnbull Government going forward.
But we are also as National Party MPs – Luke Hartsuyker and myself – we are pushing a decentralisation agenda. This is to make sure that not just public service jobs but other, private sector jobs, come out from the cities. The housing affordability here is much better in the regions. That is why we are promoting a decentralisation agenda.
But first it’s about Australian jobs. That’s why we are encouraging – in everything that we do, in every policy we undertake – it’s about jobs. That’s why the national small business roadshow is so important, to promote small business. We are encouraging jobs and growth in regional areas. We are doing everything we can to ensure that if there is a job there it is filled by an Australian.
But Minister, one of the problems that small business owners face in regional areas, and that people using health services in particular face, is that there is a major shortage of people with skills to work in those regional locations or remote locations. If you abolish the 457, what guarantees are there that those jobs will be filled and those health services provided?
Well the Prime Minister yesterday clearly said in his announcement that there will be a new up-skilling policy for Australians. To make sure that those jobs which are there now, which are being filled by foreign workers, that there’s going to be new encouragements in place to up-skill Australians and fill those jobs. It will make sure Australians can fill those vacancies.
We are a Government with a jobs agenda. We are a Government with a decentralisation agenda. We are pushing small business. We want regional areas to grow. We want people to understand that there are opportunities in the regions, housing is affordable. It is like nowhere else.
We have to encourage as many people to come to the regions as possible to take advantage of a lower cost of living. To take advantage of more affordable housing. To take advantage of the jobs and the opportunities that are out here.
I know Luke Hartsuyker has done a body of work on this and we are determined to make every post a winner for jobs for Australians. We will make every post a winner for small business. We will work with State Governments and local authorities to make sure Australians can fill jobs by getting new skills and take advantage of regional Australia’s opportunities.
Luke Hartsuyker, what is the importance of a roadshow like today?
Well small business is vitally important to our region. In regional Australia, you have only a small number of larger employers. So small business has to do the heavy lifting in job creation. That’s why it is important as a Federal Government to do everything we can to ensure that we assist small business to create jobs. And assist small business to prosper.
And that’s where these roadshows come in. Hearing first-hand from small businesses as to how Government can make it easier for them to grow, to make it easier for them to employ. I am delighted to have the Minister Michael McCormack in the electorate today, talking to businesses in Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.
We are hearing their concerns so we can take those concerns back to Canberra and incorporate those concerns in the policy development process. It’s an important process. We put great weight on the importance of small business in our economy. They employ more than 5.5 million Australians. It’s great to have Michael here today.
So Luke, on the 457 visas, you would be aware of some of the struggles that small business owners are having recruiting qualified staff in regional locations, and also the difficulty in the health service in attracting qualified staff to perform vital roles. So up-skilling may be very well, but can you – it will take a ten-year-plus duration to up-skill – so aren’t these difficult positions to fill with Australians?
Well, the focus of these changes aims is very much about having Australians filling Australian jobs and providing opportunities for Australians. Having said that, there are specific skill needs. These changes reflect the fact that there are certain high-skilled occupations that are in demand and cannot be easily filled.
So the changes aim to allow those jobs – the highly technical, highly skilled jobs – to be filled by highly-qualified people. But also ensuring that at the lower-skill end, that those jobs are filled by Australians.
Bill Shorten was the champion of foreign workers when he was in Government. This Government is fixing the problems that largely occurred on Bill Shorten’s watch. We are about having availability of skilled workers to those businesses that need it on the high-skilled end but also making available jobs to Australians at the lower skill end.