31 August 2015
Transcript - #2015101, 2015

Interview with Justin Smith, 2UE

SUBJECTS: 7-Eleven, Franchising, ACCC, Cabinet speculation, Canning By-election

JUSTIN SMITH:

Bruce Billson, Federal Small Business Minister is on the line. Hello Minister.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Justin, how are you? That is quiet the ice cream treat in your honour. You have taken one for the team there.

JUSTIN SMITH:

He has really stretched himself hasn’t he?

MINISTER BILLSON:

To finish off with a bit of sauce over the top that is really paying homage to you, well done.

JUSTIN SMITH:

Gee life’s gone crazy hasn’t it? 7/11 as I’ve said before has always had a reasonably good name. But they are about to cop a whopping black eye. What have you been briefed on here?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Basically some irregularities in their pay system. There has been some good work done by Fairfax journalists and the ABC to reveal quite a number of episodes where individual franchisees are not paying their staff what they should. Being in a franchise system doesn’t inoculate you against having to comply with the law. That is why the Fair Work Ombudsman is involved. Credit to head office at 7/11, they do a lot of payroll processing for their franchisees.

JUSTIN SMITH:

They must have had some process in place that allowed people to get away with this though; they can’t escape unscathed here surely?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I think that is why they are stepping up, because franchising is a pretty good business model. You have franchisees investing usually quite a large chuck of change to buy into a system that has been developed somewhere else; and as a part of the 7/11 model they do the payroll and back of house stuff for their franchisees and I suppose they can only input the data they are given but if there is some fraudulent material coming through, that will wash through the pay system.

I think that is why 7/11 has put their hand up saying there is a bit of reputational damage here and they are looking to cooperate with the Fair Work Ombudsman to do the right thing.

JUSTIN SMITH:

It’s a sad and sorry look isn’t it? We have vulnerable workers, migrant workers, for want of a better term – new Australians; and the first hand someone gets a franchisee pulls money out of their pay packet and exploits their ignorance.

MINISTER BILLSON:

That is the thing. One of the good things about franchising is usually all the legal obligations, that is part of what the franchise systems explains to the franchisee so that they do the right thing.

But here the examples I have seen and the investigations that are underway have really let down the staff; that as you mentioned in your intro, 7/11 is open every hour there is an hour essentially, you have people working through the night and you want them to be paid their lawful wage and entitlements and where they haven’t done so, people need to be held to account for that.

JUSTIN SMITH:

I’m sure your office will be keeping an eye out on it with great interest as it unfolds over the next couple of days. I hope you don’t mind Minister but I want to ask you, on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald today ‘PM urged to sack Joe Hockey – Cabinet Ministers say that Prime Minister Tony Abbott is being urged to dump Joe Hockey’, have you heard anything like that?

MINISTER BILLSON:

No, I haven’t – it was a really odd front page of the paper. Odd on a number of levels, I don’t know any of my cabinet colleagues that would espouse that view publically even if they felt it I don’t know anyone that actually feels it.

We have work to do, we got to get on with the job of growing jobs, the economy and making sure people are safe and secure in their homes and their financial plans for the future - and that is important stuff. I know from my approach there is plenty to do, it is heads down and derriere up, get on with the work.

JUSTIN SMITH:

Is Joe the guy to sell that for you though?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I think he is. Joe has got good communication skills; I mean we are all working with challenging budget circumstances and an economy that has a whole bunch of moving parts to it.

The jobs growth has been really strong, faster than any of the G7 economies. The last quarter we saw the economy grow at .9%, which just about any economy around the world would think was great. We got more people coming back looking for work that is an encouraging sign; and as you know we worked hard to put that small business boost together as a part of the budget and those enterprising men and women that are creating opportunities in our economy, they are doing a great job, and we have seen jobs growth there as well.

JUSTIN SMITH:

So why are you getting belted in the polls?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes, you know I am a perpetually optimistic kind of guy, not just a ‘glass half full’, but ‘check out the glass’ and can I simply say, no one has accused us of peaking early Justin.

JUSTIN SMITH:

So what are you going to do about it? You have the by-election coming up and it’s a tough run. The Canning by-election at this stage is kind of looking like a very whisker win at the very least.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Our candidate is a really outstanding Australian. Andrew Hastie is a remarkable individual who served his nation in theatres of conflict and helped keep us safe and protect our interests. He is just the kind of individual you want as your local member, really committed to our nation, proven he is happy to serve our country and serve its interests.

It will be up to the voters of Canning, they have some local issues over there. I will be over talking to small businesses in Western Australia that will probably love the fact that we have been saying there is more to the economy than mining and resources as important as that is. It has shone brightly, but let’s look past the glare of those things and look at what else is going on the economy. That is what we are focused on – energising enterprise, getting behind people who are prepared to have a go and build a better future for our country.

JUSTIN SMITH:

Minister thanks for the chat. All the best.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good to talk. Best wishes to you and your listeners.

JUSTIN SMITH:

Thank you very much. Federal Small Business Minister Bruce Billson