19 May 2015
Transcript - #2015084, 2015

Joint doorstop interview with the Hon Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister and Mr Craig Laundy MP, Federal Member for Reid, Sydney

SUBJECTS: Budget 2015; jobs and small business package; iron ore market; Daesh death cult; Iraq; Operation Sovereign Borders

CRAIG LAUNDY:

Good morning and welcome to God’s own country – the federal electorate of Reid. It’s great to have, Prime Minister, you here today and the Minister for Small Business back in town a few days kicking off the sell of the Budget. It is great to have a great gathering, typical of Reid, the second most multicultural seat in federal Parliament. I think the crowd demonstrated that today and there is a genuine buzz of excitement in not only that room but as I make my way around the electorate in response to what we have delivered in the last week and it is great to have you here today, gentlemen, to help me spread the word.

Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Craig it is good to be here with you in your electorate of Reid. It is great to be with so many enthusiastic Australians who are out there doing the right thing by their customers, by their families and ultimately by our country. I said that this was going to be a Budget for jobs, a Budget for small business, a Budget for families but above all else a Budget for confidence and that seems to have been the response. Confidence is up and frankly, we should be confident in our country because we are a great country and a great people whose best days are ahead of us. The task of government is to work with the grain of the Australian people and that is exactly what this Budget does.

In his Budget speech, Treasurer Joe Hockey said that this was a Budget about encouraging people to have a go and that’s exactly what the hard-working small businesses of our country are determined to do. They are determined to have a go because when the small businesses of our country are having a go, every Australian is more likely to get the fair go that we all yearn for.

So, it has been a Budget for confidence. I think that it will continue to build confidence in the days and weeks ahead and, as I say, we should have confidence in our country because we have got so much going for us – we really do – and this Budget is about building on the great strengths of the Australian people and the Australian nation.

As I said earlier, it’s a credit to Small Business Minister, Bruce Billson. The whole range of initiatives in this Budget – yes, there has been a lot of focus on the instant asset write off, the fact if you're a tradie, you can go out and buy a ute worth up to $20,000 and write it off instantly against your tax. If you’ve got a shop you can put in new carpets, new air conditioners, new photocopiers or whatever. As long as it is something that is a business asset under $20,000, you can go and reequip and write it off instantly against your tax. But as well as the instant asset write-off, there is so much in this Budget for business, particularly small business:  there is the improved employee share ownership, there are the additional incentives for people who are currently unemployed to go and take a job, there are the incentives for businesses to take on someone who is currently unemployed.

This is a very good news budget for small business in particular. I believe it’s the best small business budget ever and the enthusiasm of so many small businesspeople here today testifies to the fact that small business knows that they have a friend in this Government and particularly in this minister.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Prime Minister, thank you for those kind words and on behalf of Australian small business men and women thank you and Joe and the team for finding the budget space to be able to not only repair the budget but to put a much needed boost into those enterprising men and women and the engine room of our economy, that’s our small businesses and family enterprises.

As I have travelled around the country talking with small businesses right along the east coast and further beyond in the days to come, there is positivity in the air, Prime Minister, an optimism. A can-do atmosphere has been re-energised as a result of this Budget.

Small business knows we have to repair the Budget, but we also have to put back into their sails the wind and the momentum to get amongst it, to have a go, to see an opportunity, to have an ambition and to turn that into action that creates jobs and growth in our economy and better incomes and better quality of life for the future. That’s what this Budget has done. It’s not just the tax incentives that are there for the instant asset write-off or the tax relief and tax cuts for those earning an income. It’s about support to start a business, to transform it if that’s needed, employee share schemes and crowd source equity funding, all of that is something I know that aircraft wants to hear more about!

Now, was that an aircraft or the roar of small businesses saying thank goodness we’ve got a Government that is the best friend small business has had! We are an ally and an advocate. We celebrate success, we encourage entrepreneurship and one of the great things that has come out of this Budget, everyone's talking about small business as they should. The engine room of our economy and I know even for some young people, they are wondering what is this about, maybe this is an ambition I want to pursue in my life. That is great for our country, a Budget that energises enterprise, that’s what we have delivered and I encourage small business men and women to grasp this opportunity and the support the Government is giving to have a go, to grow and prosper and do what they do best and that’s add fabric and opportunity to communities right across our economy, right across our nation.

QUESTION:

PM, it’s not disputed that the small business package has been very well-received, but how about other aspects of the Budget such as your child care package? You’ve got to start negotiating with the Greens, crossbenchers and Labor to get that passed, but even some Nats are starting to express concern that they may not want to see changes to family tax benefits.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that was something that was done in last year's Budget. I am really pleased that the child care sector, in particular, is very excited about our proposed changes. What we want to do is boost child care, make it more affordable, accessible, make it simpler, make it more flexible. We want to boost child care and under our proposal, low and middle income families will be better off to the tune of $1,500 a year.

QUESTION:

But how are those negotiations going?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I am confident that when people look at what we are proposing, it’s a better system that they will say yes, we should have this better system and, yes, we do have to pay for it, because in a tight budgetary circumstance, we can't spend more without finding a way of reprioritising our spending from one area to a more urgent area and that is what we want to do. If we want to build a stronger economy, if we want ultimately to have more fulfilled people, more cohesive families, I think this is a very good initiative.

QUESTION:

You are here spruiking the business [inaudible] of the Budget – but how about the iron ore inquiry? Don Argus says it would be a massive international embarrassment and Mackenzie from BHP says it would be a waste of resources. Are you someone who believes in a free market or not?

PRIME MINISTER:

Obviously, we believe in the free market and we certainly haven't made any decision to have an inquiry. This is something that Nick Xenophon was talking about last week. The last thing we would want is a one-sided inquiry which degenerates into a witch hunt against some of our best companies. So, that is the last thing we want to see, is a witch hunt against some of our best companies and the last thing this Government would ever want to do is interfere with a free market like the iron ore market.

QUESTION:

When are you going to make a decision?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we don't have to make a decision here because there has never been any proposal from this Government for an inquiry. The proposal has always been from Nick Xenophon and the last thing that we need is an inquiry that degenerates into a witch hunt against some of our best businesses. Yes, it is important that we have the facts. It is important that the market operate smoothly, but the last thing this Government would ever want to do is interfere in a free market like the iron ore market.

QUESTION:

Do you believe where Twiggy Forrest is coming from? Do you think he has any case whatsoever, or should he have seen this coming? I mean, we knew there was a boom, we knew there was an investment period and we knew it was going to end.

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, I am not in the business of demonising people. I think that BHP, Rio, FMG, these are all terrific Australian businesses. They have all flourished in a competitive market, in a free market and long may that be the case.

QUESTION:                         

Prime Minister, there are reports that at least three Australians are allegedly fighting over in Syria are trying to come back into the country. Will they be let in?

PRIME MINISTER:

The point I keep making is that the various terrorist campaigns in Syria and Iraq are killing people. There are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of innocent people who have been killed by the Daesh death cult and the other terrorist groups in that part of the world. We have seen with our own eyes on TV the mass executions, the beheadings, the crucifixions, the sexual slavery. This is a gruesome, ghastly, medieval barbarism which has erupted in the modern world. The last thing any Australian should do is join it. So, if you are thinking of going there: don't go. That is my message. It is very dangerous. You may well be killed there. Certainly, you will be doing no-one any good by going. And if you go, and you seek to come back, as far as this Government is concerned, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be jailed because it is a serious criminal offence under Australian law to fight with terrorist groups overseas.

QUESTION:

Mr Billson, can I ask you a question about the GST on the small asset instant write off – is that included in the $20,000?

MINISTER BILLSON:

If you’re registered for GST – no, it’s not. If you have a turnover under $75,000 and you aren't registered for GST – yes, it is. So, for the vast bulk of our businesses, that $20,000 excludes the GST adjustment. There has been some good information in the paper about that and the Tax Commissioner's provided some guidance and that carries forward what has been the case in the tax system for some time.

QUESTION:

And you expect the legislation to actually get through before June 30, so that small businesses aren't taking a risk spending $20,000 before June 30?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes, I do. We are working very hard to get that legislation into the Parliament next week. Amongst the blunder and the blah-blah we got from the Opposition, somewhere amongst it was an indication that they would support this package. They’ve had some other thought bubbles, we can discuss those another day. But the message to the Opposition is, do the right thing by the small business community, get behind this measure, pass the legislation, provide certainty and help this Government energise enterprise and I am optimistic all of that legislative process will be well concluded before the end of this financial year.

QUESTION:

Has Labor given you a guarantee already that they’re going to support that legislation?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Not me personally, but there has been varying media reports saying that they like what we have done. They have had some thoughts about what else they might like to do. Our message is: let's get done what we can get done. The Government's provided the Budget capacity, we’ve got a clear plan, we want to implement it.

Small businesses are cheering on the Government for its work and encouraging the Parliament to act as decisively as we have and that is my message to the Opposition; let’s get on with this, make sure we can implement it and provide that catalytic boost to small business that has been so welcomed since the announcement of the Budget.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, does the fall of Ramadi highlight that the Iraqi Government can't stand up to IS and does that mean Australia and its allies need to have a major rethink of their strategy in Iraq?

PRIME MINISTER:

Everything we have seen in Iraq just demonstrates how evil this death cult is. There was death and destruction on a massive scale in the city of Ramadi over the last few days, thanks to the actions of the death cult. This just reinforces our determination to do what we can to help the Iraqi Government to retake their own cities, to regain control of their own country.

Now, Australia can't do more for anyone than those people are prepared to do for themselves. We can't do more for the Iraqis than the Iraqis are prepared to do for themselves. But we are absolutely determined, along with our allies and partners, both the United States and our Middle Eastern partners, we are determined to do what we can in conjunction with our partners to help the Iraqis to help themselves and obviously they need help – they need help – and we are giving it to them.

QUESTION:

What do you say to the argument that these Australians that are seeking to come back from IS could serve as an excellent weapon against them for us?

PRIME MINISTER:

A crime is a crime is a crime. If you go abroad to break Australian law, if you go abroad to kill innocent people in the name of misguided fundamentalism and extremism, if you go abroad to become an Islamist killer – well, we are hardly going to welcome you back into this country. We are hardly going to welcome you back into this country. Again, I repeat, if you go abroad to join a terrorist group and you seek to come back to Australia; you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted, you will be jailed. The Australian people expect their country to be safe and someone who has been a terrorist abroad could very easily become a terrorist here in Australia.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, what do you say in regards to the plight of the Rohingyas in South-east Asia. Europe has even started copying the turn back the boats policy and using the same language of disrupting the business model of people smugglers. The US says it has advised not to turn boats back. Are you glad your idea has caught on? Is that something you are proud of?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am appalled at the latest demonstration of the evil trade of people smuggling. I am absolutely appalled to see this outbreak of people smuggling in Burma and Bangladesh. Again I say, no-one should entrust his or her life to a people smuggler. If you do, you are putting yourself and your family at very, very serious risk. The most compassionate thing we can do to end the deaths is to stop the boats. The only way to end the deaths is to stop the boats. Frankly, the only way to stop the boats is to be prepared to turn them around. It has got to be done where it is safe. You have always got to treat people with decency and humanity but if we don't stop the boats, we can't stop the deaths. That is why the nearer to the source the boats can be stopped the better for everyone.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, the Senate Inquiry into Nauru has heard allegations today of rape committed against detainees. Should the Government be doing more to protect detainees?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are doing everything we can to help the governments of Nauru and PNG to run good centres and in the end it is the responsibility of the governments of Nauru and PNG to maintain order in these centres, to ensure that the ordinary law of the land is upheld, to ensure that basic human decency applies here as it should apply everywhere. We are doing everything we can to assist. When there were reports that untoward things had happened in Nauru, we swiftly commissioned an inquiry, we have accepted all of the recommendations and the recommendations, as far as it is within the power of the Australian Government to do so, will be acted upon.

Again, I say, this is a Government which is determined to do the right thing, whether it is doing the right thing by the small businesses and the families of Australia in the Budget; whether it is doing the right thing by the people of Australia through stopping the boats; frankly, whether it is doing the right thing by the people smugglers misguided clients – that is what this Government wants to do. When it comes to people smuggling, when it comes to their misguided clients, the best thing we can do is stop the boats and offshore processing is a very important part of that.

Thank you.