27 May 2014
Transcript - #2014031, 2014

Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News Lunchtime Agenda

SUBJECTS: Budget, small business

LAURA JAYES:

The Coalition met this earlier morning and there was no criticism from any backbenchers of any particular budget measure. Joining me now is the Small Business Minister, Bruce Billson. Now it would be somewhat surprising to some, given all the debate around this budget, that no one inside the Coalition party room stood up and criticised any of the Budget measures or the selling of it.

MINISTER BILLSON:

The mood was very purposeful Laura. I think that is uniting all of our team and we have to do this, we're not doing this for fun. There is a budget repair job; at last there is no contest about that. Even the Parliamentary Budget Office says yes there is a budget repair job – get on with it. That's what we have been doing to build a strong economy that is prosperous and provides opportunities.

LAURA JAYES:

But not even an acknowledgement of how tough the sell is. I mean the response to some of these measures have not been good.

MINISTER BILLSON:

We have a very, very experienced, wise and capable Backbench and Government Ministerial team. They know the work that needs to be done and the absence of choices. I mean, the debate isn't about whether the pathway that we have mapped out with our Economic Action Strategy should be something else. That's not the argument. We've got a grievance driven approach by the Opposition and our colleagues are saying they want…

LAURA JAYES:

There were more than 50 people who turned out at McDonalds at Leumeah surrounding the Prime Minister - isn't that exactly a litmus test?

MINISTER BILLSON:

No, but in terms of my own travels, and I can only reflect on that, people are hungry for factual information. What the Labor opposition has done is run this incredibly shrill and over the top grievance agenda, which is really spooking people. But when you explain the detail, the measures, the trajectory, the timeframes, the concessions, the thoughtfulness that has gone into making sure we start this repair job without junking the economy, people can understand the thought that has gone into it and you get quite a responsive and respectful reaction when you outline what the facts actually are. That's been my experience anyway.

LAURA JAYES:

There were a few issues with exact details between the Prime Minister and the Treasurer last week, trying to explain some of the measures like the Medicare co-payment for example. But do you believe you've felt a turning point in this debate?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I have because I think there is a hunger for information, for factual material that people can actually look at and evaluate in a more measured and sober environment. We haven't had that; we've had the Opposition being the grievance perpetuator in chief – that's all we've had. Because once you explain to people what is actually in the Budget, where the safe guards are, why it's about not only a fair go but having a go and those policy settings that are designed not to cause an enormous shock or to disadvantage anybody, but to build the foundations for a better future. When we explain how that is going, there is a hunger for detail and that was what the call was from colleagues this morning.

LAURA JAYES:

Doesn't (inaudiable) a tax payer funded campaign?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Look we aren't in the business of having the waste like we saw under the previous Labor Government. Let's be clear, you've had Richard Marles at the Press Club talking about boarder protection but who could forget those full page ads in the lead up to the election saying guess what? The boats are going to stop…..

LAURA JAYES:

Will we see leaflet drops or anything like that?

MINISTER BILLSON:

What you won't see from us are shrill, gratuitous, self-serving, political sloganeering that we saw under Labor. What you will see, as the ordinary and normal course of Government business is the provision of information that is factual, that's timely, and that explains the impact for different people. We write to pensioners when there is an increase in pensions. Doctors want to know how some of the detail in the co-payment operates. I think that's responsible.

LAURA JAYES:

Will there be taxpayer funds spent on advertising? It might not be a big advertising campaign but do you think it's justified?

MINISTER BILLSON:

We have rallied against waste and you don't go into a wasteful political sloganeering advertising campaign. You do provide factual information through the normal channels and the ordinary processes of government and that's entirely reasonable.

LAURA JAYES:

Okay you mentioned the Parliamentary Budget Office has backed you in, the Government that is, in explaining that yes the budget does need to get back to surplus and there is a challenge ahead. But if Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United Party don't see eye to eye with you, aren't you ignoring the parliamentary, the political reality in the Senate?

MINISTER BILLSON:

We've been elected to repair the budget and we've put out a very sensible, measured and thoughtful plan to achieve that, which is a pro-growth budget but also gets our outlays on track. What the Parliamentary Budget Office has done is not back us in, they've simply agreed with the facts and the reality that we are on an unsustainable trajectory and we need to pivot and change track.

LAURA JAYES:

But the Senate doesn't agree with you at this stage.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well I am hoping that even the Senate will be persuaded by the thoughtful argument and the analysis that's around. If they want to live in the grievance world of shrill responses and no responsibility for the problems that they created, that we now have to address, I mean that's appalling. They've created a problem, are taking no responsibility for it and then are nobbling the efforts to put our country back on a trajectory for the future.

LAURA JAYES:

Minister there is persuasion and then there is negotiation. What is the Government willing to horse trade on, give some ground on?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well we are making our case, we are making our case and that's been our focus. That was the message from the party room this morning. We were very purposeful; we are very focused and will keep making our case.

Now you talk about what might happen in the Senate. Well who knows what will happen in the Senate. But what we do know is that we need an economic recovery strategy.

LAURA JAYES:

But shouldn't your leader be meeting with the Leader of the Greens for example?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well no we have put out our propositions and put out why they are important and how they are part of an economic recovery strategy that we think the nation needs to get behind. Now, we've heard a lot of people giving a running commentary on what they like, what they dislike but we haven't heard much in the way of options. No one should be contesting the need for this economic recovery strategy. If they've got some better ideas, well I haven't heard any of them. I am advocating what it is we have put forward in the budget and our longer term purpose and objectives, and I think that's what people want from me.

LAURA JAYES:

Finally your portfolio, will business face a double whammy in this budget with the Paid Parental Leave scheme and the Debt Levy?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I saw some commentary about that in the media today and let's break those two down. Around 3,000 most profitable corporations in Australia won't immediately receive the company tax rate cut. So that 30 per cent down to 28 and a half per cent won't be available for about 3,200 of the most profitable companies in Australia.

Now for small businesses to fit into that area they need to have turnover under $10 million but profits over $5 million. I've got to tell you, there aren't too many of those and for those that do - they are fantastic and I'd love to know what their strategy is. I have a Ministerial Advisory Council and we would love you to share that kind of economic performance with us.

In terms of the debt levy and the deficit reduction levy, that's for people earning over $180,000. Yes there will be some small businesses that have structured themselves in the way that the tax regime lands on them, but it's a very small number. I tell you what they keep telling me though when I am travelling to small businesses, they wish they were part of it, they wish they had that kind of income. But they do know we have a very comprehensive strategy to put the business back into small business. Labor needs to help get rid of the carbon tax – that would be a good start and support us on red tape reduction.

LAURA JAYES:

Just finally, there was an indication from Joe Hockey last week that the Government will look at the super access age. There is some angst within the party about the politics around this. Do you share that angst?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well I share our position, which is that we are not going to make any unexpected adverse changes to superannuation. If there is a need for a change we will look at that in the context of….

LAURA JAYES:

Is there a need to look at it?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Let's have a look at the analysis.

LAURA JAYES:

But do you believe there is at least a need to talk about it?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Let's have a look at the analysis because what I know after a generation of compulsory superannuation, four out of five retirees are still receiving a part or full pension. If we don't make some adjustments, as those identified in the budget…

LAURA JAYES:

Why wasn't it addressed in this budget if that's the case that 80 per cent of pension aged people are still relying on a pension?

MINISTER BILLSON:

We made an election commitment about superannuation…

LAURA JAYES:

You were happy to break other election commitments, why not this one?

MINISTER BILLSON:

No, no. I think we have been pretty faithful to our election strategy and the undertakings we made. We were very clear about superannuation. It's been messed with time and time again by the previous government whenever they wanted to generate some revenue. This is about people's retirements, predictability, certainty, a sober analysis is what we are all about and if there is a case for change we will take it to the next election.

LAURA JAYES:

Bruce Billson thanks so much for joining us.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Thank you. How are the golf lessons going?

LAURA JAYES:

We will talk about that later.