6 May 2015
Transcript - #2015090, 2015

Doorstop Interview, Googong

Joint doorstop
with the Hon Bruce Billson MP
Minister for Small Business

TREASURER:

Well thanks very much Peter and to you Bruce. Thank you to John for having us at the Yellow Belly Café and obviously, this is the home I understand of Googong fishing. It’s good to see small business taking advantage of the reputation of the local area. Small business is the heartland of Australian capitalism, it’s the heartland of innovation, it is the heartland of enterprise and also, in many cases, it’s the heartland of families. We will be focused on small business on Budget night and every day after that. To empower the Australian economy, to help to drive growth. Importantly, to facilitate Australia’s future economic opportunities. Now, Bruce is going to have something to say about a number of initiatives that we are announcing today to help small business. Those initiatives are focused on reducing red tape and easing the burden on Australia’s 2 million small businesses. We’ve already taken significant steps. We’ve abolished more than 50,000 pages of regulation and laws that have been a red tape burden for business. Importantly, that has delivered a $2.5 billion a year benefit to Australian business, so cutting red tape reduces business cost. Obviously we are going further today, and we will go further again on Budget night, because the Budget is going to be right for the times. It is going to be a Budget that is focused on ensuring Australia is prosperous and it builds on everything else as part of our economic plan. Our plan that includes lower interest rates. Our plan that includes lower taxes. And our plan that includes growing the opportunities in the Asian region for Australian businesses into the future. I’ll ask Bruce to say a few words and then we’ll come back for questions.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Thanks Joe, thanks Peter. It’s great to be here and see John and his team doing a great job building a business, creating livelihood opportunities and really adding economic vitality to this growing area. It's the story of what the Abbott Government's seeking to achieve, to get behind enterprising men and women just like John. They provide so many livelihood opportunities. They are the driver of economic prosperity in our economy and they are the key to future economic success for our country. It's quite a challenge we've got. 519,000 jobs were lost in small business under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Labor Government. That's more than a half a million livelihoods provided by people just like John, that disappeared during that era of Labor. We need to recover those jobs, we need to put momentum back into the entrepreneurs in our economy. We need to energise enterprise and that's what we're doing every day and today is another installment in that ongoing agenda that the Abbott Government's been driving. Today we're announcing measures as part of the Budget package that will support entrepreneurship and the start-ups of businesses in our economy. We are making sure that the expenses incurred in establishing a business, professional costs can be immediately deductible as part of that business formation, putting cash back into businesses when they need it most. Streamlining the business registration process. You saw the energy of John other and entrepreneurs, they want to get amongst it. We don't need a complicated and duplicative process to simply register a business to get it off the ground. That's part of these changes. Also where a business is going through change, for instance, it might start as a sole proprietor but wanting to take advantage of the crowd source equity funding framework that we're developing, may need to transition into an incorporated business. Now that risks capital gains tax [inaudible] that can be a real disincentive for a business to shake itself up to take best advantage of the growth potential it sees in the future. These are some of the number of measures that we're announcing today, all about energising enterprise, supporting entrepreneurship, making sure small businesses and family enterprises can grow jobs, build on opportunity and hope in our nation. That's what we're focused on today, we’re focused on that every day. It will be a key focus of the Budget next Tuesday.

TREASURER:

Okay, over to you for questions and I might just add, because I was negligent in not doing so, Peter Hendy is a former head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and he has been an indefatigable advocate for small business outside the Parliament and in the Parliament and I very much appreciate him lending his efforts to a lot of the initiatives that we're developing in the lead-up to the Budget.

JOURNALIST:

How are you going to define a small business, Ministers, and how will the taxation system work around that?

TREASURER:

Well, there have been multiple definitions for small business over the years. They've varied based on the number of employees, versus the turnover, versus in some cases even the profit. We're going to provide that clarity on Budget night so you'll fully understand exactly what our initiatives do and where they kick in.

JOURNALIST:

Can you give us a bit of a hint?

TREASURER:

Well over 95 per cent of Australian businesses will get the benefits of what we announce immediately on Budget night. Well that was it. Thanks very much [laughter].

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, are you demanding that the Victorian Government give back the $1.5 billion in East West funding?

TREASURER:

We are absolutely committed to East West. Our position has not changed. It's only the position of the Victorian Government that has changed. You will see in the Budget papers that we are absolutely committed to East West. We're not changing our position in relation to that commitment.

JOURNALIST:

What do you make of the Victorian Government's attitude?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Just on that, can I add as a Victorian. This is a crucial piece of infrastructure. Infrastructure is the arteries of enterprise. East West is crucial to our State and our city's future. It's not just about carrying commuters. It carries commerce. You don't see a tradies for trams campaign group, do you? Because they can't operate on public transport. Important as that is and we can support that through our asset recycling program, if the State Government gets on with converting assets into public transport projects. But East West Link is crucial for the State of Victoria's economic future and for the vitality of the great city of Melbourne. They've got to get on with it, they’ve got to get on with it, not fudge it, not squib it. Build the infrastructure that a great city needs.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, Christine Milne's resigned as the Greens leader. Your reaction?

TREASURER:

Well, I'm surprised at that. I'm surprised and I'll be very interested to know why.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, we're hearing today that the Prime Minister's going to announce up to $600 million in GST compensation for Western Australia. Now, his Parliamentary Secretary has said that it's going to be for roads funding. Will that funding be conditional?

TREASURER:

Well of course it is conditional and it's based on the fact that, as I said when I met with the Treasurers just a few weeks ago, for Western Australia to fall below 30 cents in the dollar in GST is unfair, it's not the right thing to do and given that Western Australia is facing a perfect storm of falling iron ore prices together with falling GST revenue, as a Federation we have a duty to step up to the plate. I have today written to all of the Treasurers confirming that I am accepting the grants commission recommendation on the appropriation of the GST, which means that Western Australia does get less than 30 cents in the dollar but, having said that, as we speak the Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance are making an announcement that helps Western Australia with that adjustment. Their share of the GST will increase but also it is vitally important that Western Australia continue with the reforms that the Premier has announced they're going to proceed with that are part of the package. That is, that Western Australia continues to undertake necessary reform and at the same time there will be further announcements pending, I understand, that the Commonwealth Government will provide a direct payment to Western Australia to help it through its difficult days.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] How will you console the other states who might be angry about this extra funding for WA?

TREASURER:

Well, other states have got benefits in one form or another. But I think other states would understand that there is a pressure point on the Federation where one state is receiving less than 30 cents in the dollar of the GST that their citizens are paying. I think these are extraordinary levels and I think - well, the view of the rest of the Treasurers was if you want to fix it in Canberra, if you want to compensate, you're welcome to do so. Well, we're stepping up to the plate from Canberra.

JOURNALIST:

Does that mean other states can come to you cap in hand every time their GST share starts slipping?

TREASURER:

Well look, if any other state gets to 30 cents or 37 cents or anywhere near 50 cents - and no-one has got below around 85 cents other than Western Australia - obviously we would consider it, but having said that, the Prime Minister in his meeting with the Premiers said that this is something that will be discussed as part of the Federation White Paper.

JOURNALIST:

Surely the formula has to change? There’s something wrong with it?

TREASURER:

Yeah, look, there are lag points with the formula but the formula has been around for years. It is something that there was widespread view that the Treasurers did not want to change, the State Treasurers. Having said that, we have a responsibility to the entire Federation and that's why we are stepping up to the plate.

JOURNALIST:

Just back to the Greens, is Christine Milne going, depending on who they elect leader today, will it make it easier to negotiate with the Greens?

TREASURER:

Look, I hope the Greens see common sense. One of the things that surprised me about the Greens is they would oppose an increase in the excise on fuel. It was completely at odds, completely at odds with their base, completely at odds with their philosophy, completely at odds with their policy. So, frankly, I never understood why the Greens were opposing that policy which we had in last year's Budget and which we will have in this year's Budget. Because petrol prices have fallen significantly and if we want to build the roads of the 21st century, and we must, and if we want to invest in infrastructure we have to pay for it along the way. So, I don't know the circumstances under which Christine Milne has resigned. I hope it is a retirement for all the right reasons, rather than anything else, but I just say to whoever is the new leader of the Greens, please, please offer us some bipartisan work. Bipartisan support in the Senate that helps us to strengthen the Australian economy because ultimately if the Australian economy is strong, we can spend the money on the environment. But when the Australian economy is weak or when it's facing long-term spending challenges, ultimately the environment suffers along the way.

JOURNALIST:

Are you frustrated to see the Commonwealth Bank choosing not to pass on yesterday's interest rate cut?

TREASURER:

Well, I understand they're passing it along in full for small business. I also understand some of the other banks have put forward proposals that, as compensation for not passing on the cut to mortgages in full, they are in fact increasing the interest rate they're paying for people, particularly self-funded retirees and pensioners, on their savings accounts. We'll look at all the details. I expect the banks to pass on interest rate cuts in full and I will be very angry, very angry, if the banks are seeking to profit from the decision of the Reserve Bank. The banks are making very good profits and we need our banks to be profitable, but when the Reserve Bank acts, we expect the banks to also act in full as well.

JOURNALIST:

Woolworths is making good profits and it's announced that it's shedding 800 jobs.

TREASURER:

Well, Woolworths has traditionally increased jobs so I feel as though I'm being interviewed by a Reuters screen at the moment from you, Chris. I'll not respond to every suggestion…

JOURNALIST:

The economy never sleeps.

TREASURER:

Money never sleeps, the economy never sleeps and the Treasurer never sleeps at the moment. Anything else?

JOURNALIST:

Uh, yes.

TREASURER:

No, I'm not inviting questions [laughter]. Thanks very much.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, do you think a male partner of an Ambassador should be part of the greeting party for the Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

I'm not getting involved in that. Thanks very much.