24 March 2015
Transcript - #2015031, 2015

Interview with James Glenday, ABC Capital Hill, Press Gallery, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Penalty rates, small business company tax cut

JAMES GLENDAY:

I'm joined in the studio now by the Federal Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson.

Minister welcome.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Thank you for having me.

JAMES GLENDAY:

If I can start off - Would you like to see penalty rates cut on Saturday and Sundays across the country?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well we are not in the business of prescribing the rate of the penalty rate.

That is not the Parliament's role; that is not the Government's role. That is done by the Fair Work Commission.

And what you have seen in recent developments in South Australia are where a union group and an employer organisation have got together to work out a template for enterprise bargaining that sees a higher normal time rate of pay, traded off against some change to the rate of the penalty rate.

JAMES GLENDAY:

The Coalition has been quite risk adverse on workplace relations. This is something though that your core constituency really does want. Do you personally believe in perhaps higher pay but lower rates on a weekend?

MINISTER BILLSON:

What I believe in is the flexibility for workplaces to sit down and work out what is in the best interests of a viable workplace that then generates opportunities for work and hours of work.

JAMES GLENDAY:

So it sounds like you are not going to give me a yes or no answer on this one?

MINISTER BILLSON:

No because I am hoping you actually took on board my initial response. That is James, that the Parliament, nor the Government – we don't set the rate of the penalty rate. That is done by the Fair Work Commission.

And you have seen some cases mounted about recalibrating that rate and in recent developments and negotiation between the union movement and an employer organisation to reshape the way in which rates are applied in return for a pay increase.

JAMES GLENDAY:

But I guess on a philosophical level, would cutting penalty rates on a weekend, would that be something that would create jobs and improve efficiency across the board?

MINISTER BILLSON:

What we are hearing in some sectors of the economy is that the cost of opening their businesses is actually precluding them from having the doors open in the first place.

We have seen some businesses saying, and as the restaurant and caterers have done; that the rate of the penalty rate they were experiencing was seeing some of their businesses not open and therefore their staff could not get the opportunity to work.

They made that case to the Fair Work Commission, some adjustments were made; here we have seen another example of an enterprise bargaining template that gives smaller businesses in the retail sector an option to pay a higher normal hourly rate of pay in return for changes to the rate of the penalty rate.

Those flexibilities are there and I encourage people to turn their minds to them.

JAMES GLENDAY:

On another issue, the one we were just taking about earlier. Are you going to dump, or are you under pressure to dump a tax cut for small business?

MINISTER BILLSON:

No. No pressure, not going to dump it.

JAMES GLENDAY:

Are you….

MINISTER BILLSON:

Let me answer your question James, I know you are keen. It is good to see someone on the ABC excited about small business and family enterprises – I am pumped like that every day.

The point here is we have been engaging and consulting widely.

The Prime Minister made it clear that part of the small business package, which will be one of the key tenants of the upcoming Budget, is a small business company tax cut - but there are other things that we can and have been exploring that should be part of that package and we have welcomed the input of my Parliamentary colleagues, Mr Strong, other industry groups.

This will be a very exciting step to energise enterprise in our economy and therefore grow jobs and grow the economy.

That is why we have turned our mind to this important package.

JAMES GLENDAY:

Do you concede though that there might be other measures that could work better than a company tax cut across the board?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Not only concede; I have been developing a range of other proposals.

There are any number that you could bring forward, I am never short of an idea and neither are my colleagues.

So what we are doing is looking at what combination of measures would improve incentive and see a reward for the risk takers in our economy that mortgage their house to create opportunities for themselves and others, to encourage investment and innovation in those businesses and to continue our ongoing work to reduce compliance costs and burdens. So they are the three streams of work that we have been pursuing and we have had lots of good, useful constructive input.

JAMES GLENDAY:

Just finally, you are on the verge of releasing a competition policy review. Are you under pressure from some of your Nationals' colleagues to curb the power of the major supermarkets?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well on the issue of the supermarkets we have done what previous Governments have not been able to do and that is to create a food and grocery code - and I am encouraging all retailers and wholesalers in the supermarket industry to sign on.

The Harper Review is a much broader piece of work. The first review of its kind in more than 20 years looking at what systems, laws and institutions do we need, to make sure efficient businesses, big and small, can thrive and prosper in our economy.

That report should come to me by the end of the month; it is a report to Government.

I am really keen to get a look at it to see what the panel's work and recommendations are, because this is about setting up our economy for a stronger, more prosperous future.

That is our focus and that is my work every day.

JAMES GLENDAY:

Bruce Billson, thanks very much for speaking to Capital Hill.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Thanks James.