15 July 2015
Transcript - #2015087, 2015

Interview with Chris Smith, 2GB, Sydney

SUBJECTS: Live cattle exports, re-introduction of the Carbon Tax, COSBOA Small Business Summit

CHRIS SMITH:

I am joined on the line now by the Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson. Minister, good afternoon.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good afternoon to you Chris and your listeners.

CHRIS SMITH:

Can you believe this?

MINISTER BILLSON:

No I can't. I thought the chill winds going through small businesses and households in Sydney and New South Wales was from the weather not from the idea of re-birthing the Carbon Tax.

Just when we are working so hard to build confidence in the economy and to help businesses compete and win those opportunities against international competitors, you have got talk of Labor coming back and putting lead in the saddle bag of household budgets and the Australian Economy.

It is the last thing we need and it is probably not surprising that someone from Labor's own team have leaked this dopey idea.

CHRIS SMITH:

The Prime Minister has today described the tax as a triple whammy threat. It is a bit worse than last time?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It has more moving parts. It is like it has had its head cut off and not only has one head grown back, but it has got a few more. It is a tax on electricity. Energy is a key input into everyone's cost of living and into the cost of doing business.

We do not need to be more expensive as a place to live and to run a business. Now you have some other impositions operating across the economy. Does this Labor, absolutely ignored and shirt fronted public opinion, turned its back on the election result and wants to add insult to harm and injury? I just cannot understand it.

CHRIS SMITH:

And let us get this right, this is not about denying science. If we are warming and if there is a problem with global warming due to carbon dioxide, there are other ways to do our bit than trying to install the carbon dioxide tax.

MINISTER BILLSON:

We are one of the few countries who are actually meeting our targets, recognising we have a responsibility and a role to play.

We have made commitments, we are meeting those commitments and through the direct action measures and emissions reduction fund, we are actually going to businesses and people that have the capacity to reduce their emissions, to do it in a cost effective way that improves their competitiveness, make sure we do our bit as a country but does not knobble our future prospects.

That is working, that is delivering results. We are making our contribution and being responsible citizens and we are improving our performance of our economy so that we can compete and win opportunities for the future.

That is the way to go about it. Not head butting every household or harming every business and making an already challenging cost of living balancing act for households and winning business for business against international competition harder than it needs to be.

It is just a ridiculous thought bubble that I do not think they have thought through and again, they cannot even tell you what the cost and the impact is. We are finally starting to get jobs back in small business, after half a million livelihoods were lost under Labor.

Because small business gets this hit and they cannot pass it on, they are often price takers. They are trying to compete internationally against economies that do not have this lead in the saddle.

You would have thought Labor would learn from that. When we are doing good positive work, we then get the chill wind of this idea being re-birthed from Labor.

CHRIS SMITH:

How close do you think this is to coming into fruition? Let us presume that they win an election. I notice Richard Marles this morning say, it is just one of the policies that oppositions consider when they are looking at various policies.

And then Bill Shorten about half an hour ago said there would be no carbon tax. But we have heard that before too.

MINISTER BILLSON:

That is the worry, is you seem to be having to navigate Labor weasel words. Where they have a narrow casting message to some that they want to delight and that is usually on the left where, we are self-flagellating and think of our country as evil and we have all this making up to do.

When we are actually leading a lot of constructive work in this area and then you have them coming out on a broader audience and saying it is not what it sounds like. It certainly sounds like what we had last time.

CHRIS SMITH:

Yeah, exactly.

MINISTER BILLSON:

What we had last time caused a lot of harm and hardship for a lot of households, really was cruel to small business, they were told to suck up the extra costs or pass it onto their customers and in many cases they could do neither.

It acts as a reverse tariff. We are trying to win opportunities around the world in a contest for jobs and economic potential. We do not need to make that task even harder by inflicting this self-inflicted pain of added costs when our competitors do not carry that burden.

We would love to hear a clear statement, a black and white statement from Bill Shorten. Something that says, are you denying these plans? They seem to be secret, they have been leaked out there by someone from your own Shadow Cabinet, that obviously sees the silliness of it.

But what are you actually going to do? And not have these two-timing words, where you are saying one thing out one side of your mouth at one moment and then something out the other side. We have seen that before, even with Labor leaders and Bill Shorten.

We need some rock solid clarity on this.

CHRIS SMITH:

You mentioned international competition, which brings me to the attention of another story we are across today, which is, that Indonesia will be cutting their live cattle exports from Australia.

Our farmers are small business people; this will have a huge effect on their businesses.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes it will and it is quite a worrying reduction in the head of cattle that they have been receiving from mainly Northern Australia. Chris, you and your listeners would be aware that Indonesia has its own food security goals and challenges.

One of them is to grow their own cattle industry. What they have been doing is taking, usually crossbred Brahmans who are a couple of hundred kilograms and fattening them up and growing them and getting them ready for slaughter in their economy as they build their own beef markets in Indonesia.

We have been partners and allies and collaborators with that and will be into the future. But this reduction in the cattle permits for the third quarter has come as quite a shock.

It is substantially down from where it needs to be in the eyes of our producers and frankly, it will not only have an impact this side of that relationship, the Indonesian businesses counting on that supply will also wonder what is going on.

That is why we are talking respectfully and constructively with the Indonesian authorities and working with the beef industry itself. But also, diversifying our market, making sure we have other destinations for what we do well and that is why we need to maintain our international competitiveness and look outward to delight hundreds of millions of new prospective customers...

CHRIS SMITH:

How do you read this politically though? Is this revenge for the words from the Prime Minister during the Bali Nine incidents?

MINISTER BILLSON:

No, I do not see any of that in it at all. In fact, the Indonesian Ambassador has flatly rejected that.

CHRIS SMITH:

Right.

MINISTER BILLSON:

This is nothing to do about that. It is an unexpected adjustment. We are hoping it can be adjusted again in a more favourable way. Mindful that Indonesia has its own food security ambitions and that is to develop its own beef industry.

We have partnered with that. As I was saying, we get the, if there is such a thing as a 'small' Brahman, they are a couple of hundred kilograms when they leave our shores and then get fattened up and turned into important protein into their food supply and food security system.

They are looking to build that themselves. We understand that, but this was an unexpected surprise and we have good relations and that is where there are ongoing conversations happening around this decision.

CHRIS SMITH:

Quick one before we let you go; you have got something important on tonight, a summit for start-up businesses, I understand?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes, it is a big time. I am really pleased that all of our work has meant everybody is talking about small business. We know and you know many of your listeners that are in small business mortgage their houses to create opportunities for themselves and others.

Together we need to energise enterprise so that we grow the jobs and support the small business community into the future. Tonight is the first start of the Council of Small Business COSBOA's Summit will be talking about passion, policies and people.

Recognising it is individuals that are making decisions to invest, take risks. We need to get close, get supportive and be good allies. Get the policies right, make sure that all that we are doing to create the right entrepreneurial ecosystem, the space where these decisions to invest and to take a risk are made.

And then recognise as part of it you need drive, you need passion and we need to sustain that, celebrate entrepreneurship and make sure we do all we can for enterprising men and women in our economy who are crucial providers of jobs and opportunities that we need to nurture and support into the future.

CHRIS SMITH:

I appreciate your time this afternoon. Thank you for that.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Thanks for your interest Chris. Best wishes to you and your listeners.

CHRIS SMITH:

Federal Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson.