24 March 2015
Transcript - #2015030, 2015

Interview with Kieran Gilbert, AM Agenda, Sky News

SUBJECTS: Polls, S.A Penalty rates, small business company tax cut, Prime Minister’s travel

KIERAN GILBERT:

Now on the programme, the Small Business Minister Bruce Billson. Must be encouraging to see those numbers?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Encouraging, but it just shows there is no substitute for focussing on the work of governing well, on dealing with the challenges the nation faces, and mapping out a clear plan for the future.

That is what we have been doing.

You know we had that moment of introspection. We are through that.

All the colleagues, all the Ministers, everybody is putting their best efforts into the best performance we can offer as a Government.

I think there are some encouraging signs that that is exactly what the electorate is looking for.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Yeah because the reality is politicians of course see the polls, they see it as a barometer.

And the Prime Minister - this would be encouraging for him too personally….

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well it is better than tracking the other way isn’t it Kieran? Let us be frank about that.

It is a reflection of the mood that I sense and that is shared with me as I do my work in the small business community and in my own electorate:

People want a Government to get on with the job of governing.

And we have mapped out a clear plan; there has been good progress on key issues that are important to voters.

And really that is what voters are looking for.

It also reflects a bit of an unknown quantity about Labor. Bill Shorten is the ornamental man of Australian politics. I think InvisaBill is the term that a journalist gave.

I suppose when we were having our moments of introspection it encouraged others to look at what the alternative is.

And frankly Labor is not much under Bill Shorten.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Let us look at some of your policy areas.

And I guess the development most interesting today is this South Australian development - the shoppies’ union (shop assistants’ union ) doing a deal with the Chamber of Commerce to basically reduce penalty rates on the weekend but increase the base rate for workers in the retail sector. This is an employer of some 40,000 workers in South Australia, it is quite significant.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well and it shows you the flexibility that is in the current law.

And congratulations to the South Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

They have been chaperoning this process through with the shop assistants’ union to make an arrangement available that may be attractive to many small businesses.

Even the shoppies’ union recognises that the economy is changing. The only way to have a job is to have a viable business. And that there is a need to take account of the impact of costs of doing business on opportunities for employment.

Now the shoppies’ union has recognised that, the South Australian Chamber of Commerce has worked through a model that it thinks will be good for many retailers in South Australia.

Again what is Bill Shorten’s position? He thinks we live in this nine till five, back to the 50s kind of economy.

That is not the case and good on the parties that have negotiated this as an opportunity for smaller businesses and employees in South Australia.

KIERAN GILBERT:

You say it shows the flexibility of the current laws. Is that a message to those who are urging the Government to do more in this space that ‘look, this can be done as it stands so further reform from you is not necessary?’

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well there are mechanisms in the current law.

Whether they are adequate, whether they are responsive, whether one can navigate them: They are important discussions for the Productivity Commission review.

And I urge smaller employers and family businesses in particular to have their voice heard.

Even in this quite constructive and encouraging step forward, it still required a big industry association to navigate the procedural requirements and to get to a point where there is a template agreement that a retailer in South Australia can discuss with their employees and see if it works well for all of them.

KIERAN GILBERT:

But in conjunction with the Unions is it time for you and the Government to also take that sort of olive branch approach to the Union movement and come up with this sort of framework, this sort of deal nation-wide?

MINISTER BILLSON

Our focus is on what is good for the economy and good for employees and supports viable, productive and growing small business. That is our focus and that is the focus of my work every-day.

This is an example of some capacity that exists in the current system.

My point is, that for many small businesses the system is designed to require a big industry association, or a big union or a really big corporate to be able to navigate it.

When you have time poor small businesses that just want to get on with creating opportunities for themselves, their workforce, their communities- some of the machinery is a little complicated; this particular agreement now navigates some of that.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Would you like to see this sort of deal done nationwide?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well I think it is an opportunity that clearly has been attractive to the shoppies’ union and to the South Australian Business Chamber and now it is on the table for smaller businesses to take up if that is their choice.

It might come as a surprise to many of your viewers but this Parliament does not sit here determining penalty rates and things of that kind.

The machinery’s in place; most of those determinations operate through the Fair Work Commission, there is machinery there.

My view is how friendly is it to a smaller enterprise to navigate this machinery that seems designed more for bigger organisations and representative organisations rather than for a small, nimble, agile enterprise looking just to get ahead and to create opportunities for themselves and others in their community?

KIERAN GILBERT:

You say that the Government does not create the structure for that, but what you do judge and make rulings on is the tax rate.

Now on the small business tax rate, some of your colleagues, Bert van Manen have small business experience. Craig Laundy with many small businesses, many many small businesses.

Both of them have the view that you should replace the small business tax cut with depreciation assistance, because not every small business is incorporated. I think it’s only 30 per cent therefore 70 per cent miss out on that tax cut.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes about a third of our businesses are incorporated, which is why the last time we spoke we were talking about what the small business and jobs package looks like; and how it is not only about our ambition for a small business company tax cut but for other things.

That is what is great about the Liberal and National Parties.

We are not short of ideas Kieran, we are not short of ideas and without letting go on too many ‘in the beltway’ secrets here, the pizza night we had in my office some weeks ago; we were canvassing the thoughts and input of colleagues.

That has all been useful input and some of that input has been reflected in media commentary today.

There is no single silver bullet that will energise enterprise to create the momentum for jobs growth and employment and a stronger economy. We need a range of things and that is why we are developing this package so that we can put that …

KIERAN GILBERT:

So the depreciation assistance is something that you are looking at…

MINISTER BILLSON:

We are not shut off to that; we have worked through a range of possibilities.

Isn’t it great we are looking forward to some announcements about that package? What a statement about how important small businesses and family enterprises are to our economy.

KIERAN GILBERT:

When is that announcement?

MINISTER BILLSON

We have framed it in terms of around the timing of the Budget.

For me, there are three key themes that we need to focus on:

Incentive and encouragement to take risks; Small businesses mortgage their houses to create opportunities for themselves and others in their communities. That is why a cut to the tax paid on income is important, because that can motivate.

Also about what we can do to boost entrepreneurship and investment.

And then finally there is still more work to be done about getting rid of red tape and compliance burdens.

Those three prongs are our focus, but I am happy to talk to you about the details when we have finalised them.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Sure and finally, quickly, the Prime Minister flew on his Government aircraft, the VIP, to go to - according to the Herald Sun - a private party.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes what a waste of a front page of a newspaper.

The Prime Minister had meetings in Melbourne and Sydney. Let us not get stuck into the guy for having a moment with some acquaintances.

He had work to do. It was all in accordance with the rules.

What a waste of the front page.

It could have been about the homelessness announcement that Scott Morrison released yesterday. Or better still – the Employee Share Scheme reforms that I am navigating through the Parliament; hopefully in the coming days.

Now that would have been a worthwhile front page.

Nothing in that story. The Prime Minister had official meetings in Melbourne and Sydney and he stopped in at someone’s birthday while he was in Melbourne. What is the issue there? That is just ridiculous.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Bruce Billson thanks for your time.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good to talk.