Speech – Inaugural Small Business Lindsay Luncheon with Fiona Scott MP, Penrith

Thanks everybody for having me back in Penrith. It’s great to be amongst your community again and I reflected on the last time Fiona and I were consulting and liaising. I was grateful for the Business Alliances wise counsel and also the Chambers. Who’s a member of the Chamber of Commerce?

I would encourage you to get a part of these support networks where there are people just like you, who are probably experiencing similar business challenges and you’re feeling, perhaps – as I’ve launched Start Up Australia – a new movement in Sydney.

There, we were trying to make the point that as Fiona illustrated, being an entrepreneur, following the pathway and the drive and ambition that all of you have pursued isn’t an experience everyone has shared.

But what is clear is that there are many learnings to be found amongst those that have made that journey and being a part of a Chamber, Business Alliance group or those support networks, your industry association – I recommend you think about being a part of all of that. Purely because of the networking and shared learnings that can be very important to your life. The other thing too, which Fiona touched on, there are times in your business life when you can feel quite on your own, quite alone. So I would encourage you to get a part of that if it is at all possible.

Also I want to acknowledge Scott Holmes and Doctor Andy Marks for all of their work and I particularly want to say a very big thank you to Fiona. You are very fortunate and quite blessed to have such an energetic, insightful and authentic local member who has enterprise running through her veins. I’ve got to tell you she is not shy about advocating your views in Canberra and that is just what you want, someone who is deeply committed to the community and courageous in her advocacy for your community so please join me in thanking Fiona.

My own electorate is one of the great southern hemisphere capitals of the world. Not Santiago or Buenos Aires, but Frankston in Victoria. Well at least I think it’s one of the great capitals in the world.

It’s not that dissimilar to many of the characteristics of this community. We are some 40 to 60 kilometres out of downtown Melbourne. We might be the Riviera of Greater Melbourne or the dirty weekend capital for four million Melbournians but we are some distance from the central activity district in our city.

Like you, sadly one of our greatest exports are talented and gifted people leaving our community everyday as they commute to engage in economic opportunities and livelihoods.

Just like Fiona, one of my driving ambitions is not only to celebrate and highlight the great lifestyle that’s available in our community, but add to that and round off that by having livelihoods within the reach of our citizens, and a diverse economy where young people and not so young people can see opportunities that provide a chance for them to be all that they can.

It’s interesting in my schooling, I went to school in a housing commission estate, too often people let their postcode determine their potential. Someone else would let them know what their prospects are and my message was always one of no no our kids, our businesses they can succeed, learn, grow and develop as well as anybody else but at times a bit of a push is needed to make sure that possibility is within their reach.

It’s so much a part of what all of you do and I want to pay my respects to each and every one of you because the pathway of mortgaging your house and your first born to take risk, to create opportunities for yourselves and livelihoods for others in your community, isn’t adequately celebrated in our country.

I particularly want to acknowledge you because I’ve gone down that pathway and failed. We didn’t succeed. The day my wife and I decided that we just couldn’t keep pouring more and more money into our business, that the red ink had to stop that the mortgage on our house – only half of which related to our accommodation – and the bulk of it relating to our business. There had to be a point where it had to stop.

That decision was a tough decision when we talked to our team and said look it’s over, when we told our suppliers who relied on us as their channel to market that we didn’t succeed.
But have a go has to be an ethos that is more widely respected and embraced in our community. Entrepreneurship, risk taking, the special life that is what you and I – I used to have.
The pillow talk of cash flow, when your business occupies every waking conscious moment, you’re thinking about what else you can do to make it happen.

Well what’s happened under the six years of the previous Labor Government is 519,000 jobs were lost in small business. That’s 1,544 each and every week over six years and because they weren’t a big factory or a big union shop or something like that, it didn’t get the attention and the focus that it warranted because these were the stories of disappointment, lost livelihoods, lost houses in many cases, sprinkled right across our continent.
But for communities like yours and the one that I represent, these are particularly challenging circumstances to deal with because it is small business and family enterprise that is the economy.

The engine room of prosperity, in your region, are each of you and this is something that needs to be respected and better supported in our view and that’s the work Fiona and I bring to our tasks each and every day.

We can do this in a number of ways. The first thing we should do is make sure needless obstacles and impediments are removed. Many of you are competing to be world class each day and to be so gives you the chance to be successful as a business.

But it’s also important that Government step up to that plate as well. Do you know in the area of red-tape in those six years we had 21,000 new and amended regulations. When the money ran out every problem needed a regulatory response.

It took us from being 68th in the world according to the World Economic Forum, on the impact of regulation and compliance on our economy.
So in 2007 there were 67 countries that had a less burdensome regulatory environment than our own. The last report had us at 128th. There are 127 economies with less of a compliance task, with reduced red-tape, with less government intervention gumming up the economy that have a better opportunity to grow their businesses and work on their businesses rather than working in the business that compliance and regulatory requirements may demand of them.

This is why we are trying to lift that burden. It’s also why the carbon tax is so important. You know it’s a $8.5 billion drain on the economy. I’ll give you an example, it’s about $400 for every Australian compared to Europe which is $1 for every European – hardly any impact at all.
Yet we know that has sucked out consumer confidence, we know that’s built costs into your businesses, we know the previous government said no compensation, hush money or carveouts for small business just pass it on.

We know for many that wasn’t an option within reach because your own customers weren’t wanting to pay more for anything. So again margins got squeezed.

For those of you, like me, celebrating our successes over in Glasgow at the moment, seeing our people competing against some of the best in the world, you don’t aid that task by making it harder. You don’t put your best player out on the field with lead in their boots to slow them up in the hope that the other guys will run quicker. That’s not the world, yet that’s what was happening with our economy and that’s why we were so adamant that we needed to get rid of that tax.

Even the way the government organises itself. As Fiona indicated, I’m one of the 20 people shaping the direction of our nation, our policy and our strategy. Every day we can feed into that work and argue forcefully about your needs, because we need to recover the 519,000 jobs lost.

We need to end that decline, arrest the loss of small businesses contribution to the economy, turn that around and rebuild it because that’s what’s going to be needed the other side of the mining boom. People will be wondering where’s the next growth spurt, well ladies and gentlemen it will come from you, it will come from you.

As we contribute to the G20s work, where there is an agreement across the 20 largest economies in the world that we need to lift our rate of growth by two per cent above business as usual, not one of those countries that see’s that being achievable without energising enterprise at a small business, microbusiness and family enterprise level.

So this is a transformation in thinking. Governments can help by not being unhelpful. We can’t make all businesses succeed, but it’s our duty to make sure that the contest in the commercial space has fewer impediments than we see at the present time.

If I could use the term – the entrepreneurial ecosystem – you know the environment in which you all operate, needs to be supportive and encouraging, not hostile and combative and that’s where Fiona and I can do our work to make sure those impediments are removed.

We need to cut red-tape, the unnecessary taxes, the overreaching of government bureaucracies and regulatory agencies. The fact that I am in Cabinet and I can make sure when there are appointments being made to the ATO, ACCC and the board of taxation that small business people are part of those key bodies which have an enormous impact on your day to day existence, and peoples preparedness to invest and take risks.

That’s why the company tax cut is important. Now I know only one third of small businesses are structured as companies and of those only half are profitable and fewer still pay the company tax. So there are many that won’t see a direct benefit from that measure but it’s a statement about the direction we want to head in, because you all know we don’t have enormous amounts of sloppy cash laying around right now.

But this says an important statement to the community. We have to celebrate and energise enterprise. If we are to grow the economy, provide the livelihoods and enable all of our citizens to achieve their full potential and your businesses to flourish and prosper. We need to get that right.

Today a bit of that work is a collaboration between Government and a very important institution in your community and that’s the University of Western Sydney.

With funding from the Government a small business building website has been developed, because there are too many examples where a business hasn’t succeeded because of the lack of information, or some of the tools and experience that can be shared by experienced entrepreneurs outlining what they have learned and insights that they have gained.

I’m thrilled that that site will go live soon and I’m delighted that we are partnering with the University of Western Sydney. The website will provide business factsheets, advice on start-up guides for different industries, expert tips, a YouTube channel, a chance to learn from others and to share your own learnings in such a way as to make business success more within reach.
I was encouraged yesterday, the Dunn and Bradstreet figures came out and found a 23 per cent increase in business start-ups between the first quarter of this year and the second quarter – eight per cent over the course of the year – this is encouraging.

Also welcoming has been the decline in business failure rates but we really need to turbo charge that and these tools, like the one that we are partnering with the University of Western Sydney, is part of that.

I’m pleased to announce today a further $106,000 grant to the University of Western Sydney to implement a program they have been advocating and Fiona has been championing, which is about ensuring that the future of advanced manufacturing in this region can be supported by a drive to life productivity, growth and sustainability of those businesses because we know manufacturing is under pressure. Costs are growing and we need to relieve that but we also need to recognise that our manufacturers need to be world class every day because there are manufacturers everywhere hungry for that business and that opportunity.

What I ask of you though is to join us in a renaissance of enterprise. Talk about what you do, excite and encourage other people in the community to follow in your footsteps, be prepared through your industry groups to share insights and learnings, to see as I do the future can only be improved by us encouraging more and more people to go down the pathway you’ve taken of taking risks, mortgaging your houses, the constant challenge of trying to succeed in an environment that has been too difficult that we are seeking to change.

And then the next celebration may not be Penrith Panthers winning their next game, but entrepreneurship where we recover those jobs lost, we build a faster growth economy so that livelihood and fulfilment of all of our peoples potential is in reach and in part a central focus of that is not just looking for who is going to provide the opportunities but finding and shaping them ourselves.

So I thank you for a few minutes of your time today.