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Transcript 18432

Transcript of doorstop interview, Canberra

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/03/2012

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 18432

PM: It is great to be here today with Peter Strong, who leads COSBOA, the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia. That means as well as running this great bookshop, he's an advocate for 2.7 million small businesses around the nation.

I was going to be joined here today by Brendan O'Connor too, the Minister For Small Business, a strong voice for small business right at the Cabinet table, but unfortunately the Opposition prevented him being able to leave the Parliament today, so Peter my apologies from Brendan O'Connor for not being able to be here today.

Small business is vital to the Australian economy. It employs half of Australians and it makes up a third of our economy. Small business is such a life blood of our national prosperity and I have been talking to Peter today about how that works and the family sense that you can get from a small business and working within a small business.

What that means is that small business is big today as an employer and for tomorrow running a small business is the aspiration of many working Australians.

As a Government, we understand that and we want to work in a partnership with small business to support them, to support them as they go about the very hard work of making their businesses successful and employing other Australians.

So I'm here today to announce that we will create a Small Business Commissioner. This is another step forward in our partnership with small business. This Commissioner will be charged with a number of responsibilities to work with small businesses.

Inevitably, because people are so busy in their own business, they don't have the time and the resources to engage with government policy and programs the way many bigger businesses do, where they can afford to have specialists who can advise them on government policies and programs.

So the Small Business Commissioner will act as a one-stop shop, a place that small businesses can go when they need advice about the whole range of government programs, rather than having to puzzle their way through as to who to talk to.

The Office of Small Business Commissioner will also act as a great advocate for small business within government, making sure that government departments understand the importance of thinking about small business as they go about their work.

Once again, it can be so much harder for small businesses to have their voice heard.

So this is an important step forward for small businesses. It has been a long sought after policy from the Council of Small Business Organisations, from COSBOA. I've spoken to Peter about it personally and I'm delighted to be able to announce it today.

It builds on top of a number of policies of the Government to support small businesses. We want to provide small businesses with a tax cut, a company tax cut starting on 1 July.

We want to provide small businesses with an instant asset write off at $6,500. So if they're investing in new capital in their business, they get a tax benefit for doing so every year that they invest in that new capital.

We want to provide a $5,000 tax benefit if they purchase a new motor vehicle that they need to use in their business. So many small businesses need to be mobile and that is a great benefit for small businesses too.

We're in a position to provide those benefits to small businesses because of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. This is a way of ensuring that the proceeds of the mining boom are shared around the country and across the economy to small businesses and to the people who work within them.

Can I take this opportunity to say that today Tony Abbott has confirmed that the Opposition will vote against tax cuts for small businesses and tax benefits for small businesses.

They will vote against the tax cut to 29 cents in the dollar for small businesses from 1 July.

They will vote against the instant asset write off going to $6,500.

They will vote against the $5,000 benefit if you buy a new car.

Indeed, they will vote against tax cuts for all businesses. That is what Tony Abbott has confirmed today.

This is proof that Mr Abbott has become so negative that he's now planning to vote against tax cuts for small businesses, vote against jobs and vote against the Australian economy.

Only last year Tony Abbott was talking up the importance of tax cuts for small businesses. He said this, his words, "If there are lower taxes on companies we will have more successful companies. We will have a more prosperous economy and that is good for every single Australian."

By his own words, Tony Abbott has confirmed today that he's going to vote against successful companies.

He's going to vote against a prosperous economy.

He's going to vote against something that is good for every single Australian.

This is the negativity of the Opposition at its worst.

I will now turn to Peter for some comments and then we'll be a happy to take questions.

STRONG: Ladies and gentlemen, for over a decade now the Council of Small Business has been asking for a lot of things from government and what we've really wanted is some architecture, some infrastructure within government to look after small business.

In the past a government will say ‘Here's a good thing for small business.' and give it to us and a year later it will disappear. It will disappear because of the bureaucracy; it will disappear because we're not in anybody's mind. And now we have infrastructure.

A couple of weeks ago we found a Small Business Minister in Cabinet and that's as good as you're going to get when it comes to that level of decision making. And now we have a Small Business Commissioner at the national level to make sure that the public sector considers small business, to make sure that we are never forgotten again.

For two decades we have been forgotten, when you look at the red tape that's been added on what we do, when you look at the taxes that have been put on us, when you look at the system that is have been put upon us, we've disappeared as human beings and now we're back again and that's a fantastic thing.

I've got to say it is a very exciting day for us to have that architecture, that infrastructure in place at the national level, a person in Cabinet and a Small Business Commissioner.

Thank you Prime Minister, it is something we have wanted for a long time. And the other thing I've got to say is we are in deep dialogue on a range of other issues.

And we haven't agreed or disagreed on these other issues but we know the Government is listening to everything we say and any time I want a meeting I get it, which means I've got to stop asking for them.

It's a very good place to be for small business and we expect a lot more to come over the next few months.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, when will the Commissioner be appointed, when will it be up and running?

PM: We will be appointing the Commissioner in the second half of this year.

He or she will then commence work, working with the advisory committee that Peter is actually the deputy chair of. The Office of Small Business Commissioner will be formally established on 1 January next year.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you spoke a lot before about Tony Abbott's refusal to support tax cuts for business. Are you equally concerned about the Greens' opposing the tax cuts for bigger business as they have announced, and doesn't that cut, if that goes ahead, cut to the very heart of the design of your mining tax which Labor has been telling us for three years is about - two years - is about addressing the two-speed economy of which there are, I'm sure you'll agree, big businesses that are also not mining companies.

PM: Absolutely. I focused on Tony Abbott today because it is Mr Abbott's decision I'm surprised by, truly surprised by. There were words from Mr Abbott last year which would lead any reasonable person to believe that he was going to back in these company tax cuts. I think many business people would have relied on those representations from Mr Abbott, many business organisations certainly came to the conclusion that he was going to back in the tax cuts.

So I've focused on that today because that's the decision I'm surprised by. And, look, I'd have to say I never thought I would see the day that the Liberal Party would join with the Greens to vote against a tax cut for business. That's what Mr Abbott has announced today.

JOURNALIST: What about the design of the MRRT and the importance of big business (inaudible)?

PM: We will keep pushing for the benefits for businesses that we want to flow from the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. We are in a position now where the Minerals Resource Rent Tax will pass the Senate during this sitting fortnight. It will be the law of Australia.

Then we will bring a piece of legislation to the Parliament in the budget session to cut taxes for businesses, to provide the sorts of benefits that I've talked about.

It is important to addressing our patchwork economy. Many bigger businesses that aren't in the fast lane of the economy are doing it tough. Businesses like manufacturing, we want to provide them with a tax cut.

Good for the businesses, another way of supporting the jobs in those businesses. We'll bring that legislation to the Parliament, but on what Mr Abbott has said today, he will sit down with the Greens to deny tax cuts to businesses. That's what he says.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, why did you break up the two tax cuts then? Why did you give the Greens the chance to say, ok, we'll back small business tax cuts but we won't backs the tax cut for the big end of town?

PM: Look, we've said for a long period of time we were going to bring the tax cut legislation to the Parliament after we had received the work of the Business Tax Working Group.

We had a Tax Forum last year which went very, very well. We had representatives from the business community, from trade unions, from civil society, all talking about the kind of state our economy is in now, which is that its fundamentals are strong, but its undergoing very deep structural change. It needs to be agile as we go about that change. There's this patchwork effect. What can we do in business tax that makes a difference?

So we've timed this legislation to give us the option that if the Business Tax Working Group gives us a smart, revenue neutral proposal, then we would be in a position to add it to the legislation.

So we'll receive that work and assess it once we've received it, but that explains the timing for you.

I'd also say - we were entitled to believe Mr Abbott's statements from last year that he was going to back these company tax cuts in.

Last year he was out talking about the importance of company tax cuts. It is only yesterday from Mr Hockey, and now today from Mr Abbott, that it's become absolutely transparent that they are going to vote against tax cuts. That means they're going to vote against jobs. That means they're going to vote against the strength of our economy.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if Tony Abbott remains entrenched in this view but you still want to get it through the Senate, what sort of positioning will you countenance with regards to how you'll deal with the Greens, if it takes reducing the company tax cut for big business and putting more money into disability, health or education?

PM: Look I'm not going to war game all of that through for you today. The Government's position today is crystal clear. We're for taking a fair share of tax from the turbo charged section of the economy, the resources sector, and using that to benefit businesses around the nation big and small. Mr Abbott is opposed to that.

What he is saying is he wants to benefit billionaires and he wants to betray other businesses. That's Mr Abbott's position. That is the backdrop to the parliamentary debate we will have in May about cutting tax for businesses and supporting Aussie jobs.

JOURNALIST: The CSIRO report today has some fairly alarming findings about the rise in greenhouse gases. Is a carbon tax enough to really combat this worrying rise in greenhouse gases and global warming?

PM: Putting a price on carbon is the best way, the cheapest way, indeed the only effective way, of cutting emissions. We've always said that. What the work of the CSIRO today should reinforce in people is the need for effective action.

They're saying to us that carbon pollution has never been higher than it is now with all of the impacts we know that has on the warming of our atmosphere.

The scientists are telling us that. The scientists, as a result, are saying to policy makers ‘you need to do something.' Well we are doing the most effective thing you can possibly do to cut carbon pollution.

We've done that against the worst Opposition and reckless negativity that we've seen in Australian politics, in my view, from an Opposition Leader who used to be in favour of putting a price on carbon.

We've stared down a cheap populist campaign to get right thing done for the nation and it will come on stream on 1 July.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, back to small business if I may - the Greens idea that you should perhaps increase the turnover threshold at which the company tax benefits will cut in, will you entertain that at all?

PM: Look, our policy is clear. We're for giving small business a tax cut on 1 July and giving all businesses a tax cut a year later. That is what we stand for. That is the policy we are pursuing.

The position we're in today is, as I said over here, one where Tony Abbott says no, don't do any of this, don't have the mining tax, make sure the billionaires benefit and make sure everybody else misses out.

JOURNALIST: Are you worried about the uncertainty that it will create in the business sector if you don't have that one per cent company tax cut through by 1 July.

PM: I am very worried about the uncertainty that Tony Abbott's created today. Businesses are entitled to say for many, many, many long months they believed Mr Abbott's words that he supported company tax cuts. Why should they have disbelieved those words?

If anything, you would have said it is one of the core brands of the Liberal Party, to stand for reduced taxation on business when there's an opportunity to do so.

So against all those years of Liberal Party history, against all of those statements from Mr Abbott, everybody was entitled to conclude he was going to support company tax reductions.

It's today that he said to Australian businesses ‘I'm selling you out'.

JOURNALIST: Mr Abbott said he's going to have separate company tax cuts outside of this equation.

PM: And where's the money coming from?

JOURNALIST: But if you did it the way you said you would to start with, which means it was supposed to go through with the MRRT-

PM: -That's not what we said. We said - I'll refer you to the statements of the Treasurer. We said that we would bring this legislation to the Parliament after we were in receipt of the Business Tax Review Working Group.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Craig Thomson has admitted himself to hospital this morning. Do you have any update on his condition?

PM: I understand that Mr Thomson has been experiencing severe stomach pain, so he thought the best thing to do was to go and get himself checked out.

I understand he's anticipating he'll be right to return to work in a day or two. In those circumstances, whilst the Opposition didn't help us today by letting Brendan O'Connor have a pair, they have honoured the longstanding convention that if a member of Parliament needs medical attention and he's suffering an illness, that we all make the appropriate arrangements to let them go and get the care they need.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the Greens blocking the big business cuts, it actually gives you a bit of breathing space, doesn't it, when it comes to the return to surplus? So it actually could be a blessing in disguise in some sense?

PM: I want to do what we said we would do. I want to make sure Aussies get a fair share of the mineral wealth in our grounds as we go through the resources boom and we use that as a way of funding tax cuts for businesses across the economy, as well as backing in superannuation for working people, as well as providing infrastructure to the regions that are experiencing both the blessings and burdens that come with spectacular growth.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: I want to deliver tax cuts to businesses. The situation today is Mr Abbott has said he's going to betray businesses around the nation.

JOURNALIST: Before you arrived we were hearing from Peter and another person about one of the major bug bears experienced by small business and that is the administration of superannuation, the argument being that it takes a lot of time and money and effort to administer something that might be better done by the ATO.

If that's the view that is reached by the Commissioner, and indeed by the Minister, are you amenable to that idea?

PM: Look, Peter and I have had a conversation about this and I suspect because Peter is such a feisty advocate for small business we're going to hear some more.

Clearly, having created superannuation in this country for working people, and now wanting to add to that superannuation, we are very focused on the attachment of superannuation to the world of work and to employers.

Now I do understand that that puts a burden on small businesses when it comes to doing their accounting and we'll keep talking to Peter about ways that we may be able to alleviate some of that burden.

I would remind that Peter has got a ring side seat when it comes to the COAG discussion between business and leaders from around the nation. By ring side seat I don't seek to imply that COAG is a boxing match, but he'll be there able to put his views straight to leaders about lifting red tape burdens.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you still proposing to abolish the entrepreneur's tax offset?

PM: We have abolished the entrepreneur's tax offset.

JOURNALIST: How does that fit in with the overall scheme of supporting small business?

PM: It was an ineffective policy with very, very limited benefits for small businesses, so we decided to get something more effective done.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Tony Abbott says Bob Carr is your latest attack dog. Do you agree with that assertion?

PM: Bob Carr, like all of the members of the Government, puts the Government's policies and programs and where necessary, points out what Mr Abbott's negativity is costing the nation.

Thank you very much.

Transcript 18432