201411.19

Transcript – Interview with David Speers, Sky News

E&OE………………………………………………

Subjects: Victorian election, Electorate office, East West Link, Palmer United Party disbanding, ChAFTA, Economic Action Agenda

DAVID SPEERS:

We are ten days out from the Victorian State Election. It is neck and neck – Daniel Andrews, Denis Napthine will be on stage here tonight taking questions from undecided voters chosen by Galaxy Research.

This part of Melbourne we are in is in the Federal seat held by the Small Business Minister, Bruce Billson, who joins me now. Thank you for being here.

MINISTER BILLSON:

David, welcome to Dunkley, welcome to Frankston, the Riviera of Melbourne. It is great to have you in town.

DAVID SPEERS:

It is, it’s a wonderful part of a town, wonderful to be here but I should point out that just over the road, your office – we’ve got a picture of it here – a package with powder in it has been delivered and your office had been shut down. What’s happened there?

MINISTER BILLSON:

A worrying episode, certainly my thoughts are very much with my team at the moment. We had a parcel that when it was opened some powder came from it.

DAVID SPEERS:

Are the staff still in the building or are they outside?

MINISTER BILLSON:

They are in another part of the building.

The building has being evacuated and our thoughts are with them.

There are procedures in place and they have been activated, but certainly apologies to those that have been inconvenienced because the whole complex has been shut down while Hazmat does its work.

I have been in touch with my team, making sure they are okay, and they are getting some attention at the moment just to see what was in this parcel.

DAVID SPEERS:

I hope they are all okay.

Was there any indication, a message or anything like that on the package?

MINISTER BILLSON:

No, no, speaking with my staff it was just an A4 envelope and just as they started to open it a powdered puff emerged and the training and procedures began quickly and activated the procedures and that is what has occurred.

DAVID SPEERS:

Let’s hope everything is okay and no doubt police will handle that.

Let’s talk a bit about this part of Melbourne; this is a very tight run race in this state seat. What are the issues you think that voters are going to swing on?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It is a really eclectic community, quite a diverse array of communities within the Frankston electorate and Dunkley more generally.

Jobs and economic opportunities are always a biggie.

Law and order, personal safety and security – that always features.

Health services are important, we have got a growing community in our health system here, Frankston Hospital does a terrific job but more is being asked of it with more people and more complex cases.

And also what are the opportunities for the future? This community very much wants to know what your plan is for the future so that our young people and those that might be out of work now know there are some opportunities within their reach, so that is the main four issues.

DAVID SPEERS:

Do you think some of the people here might feel let down because they’ve heard a lot about the opportunity and the growth potential for many, many years here and many have missed out on that.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well it has been an interesting conversation.

I have represented this community with great honour for quite a period now and often people talk about the potential.

What locals want to see are some practical action to achieve and make real that potential.

Classic example – what a great location on the Port Philip Bay, this city has turned its back in the past on its best asset but now with the Napthine Government the South East Water regional headquarters is coming to Frankston. That is another 700 jobs. Different kinds of jobs, a lot of retailing jobs here, building construction is important, light industrial, but the overwhelming opportunity for employment is in the public sector and we need to diversify the economy and spread those economic prospects more broadly.

DAVID SPEERS:

The big issue in this election campaign is the East West Link. James Campbell from the Herald Sun was just telling us a little earlier, it may not mean much though for people in this part of town because it would get them to the airport quicker but how often do people go to the airport?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I think that may be a bit of a misread, you might remember Prime Minister Howard called me Mr Scoresby because I campaigned for years to get the Scoresby Freeway built, which is now EastLink. Crucial infrastructure and about making sure our residents are readily connected to opportunities, wherever it might be, and that we are competitive to attract investment.

This is also where East West Link comes in, very important, when our main archery in Monash Freeway is clagged or choked or there is a mishap, as has happened in this week, the whole grid comes to a grinding halt.
That stops commerce, which gets people separated longer than they need to be from their families, and from this community a lot of people make a big commute either for their work opportunity or their education opportunity.

That is why transport infrastructure is important.

DAVID SPEERS:

Let’s talk a bit about some federal issues today, a lot of focus – and I know you have been keeping up to date with what’s been happening in the Senate – it does appear very clear now that the Palmer United Party is fractured. What does that mean for the Government do you think?

MINISTER BILLSON:

There are some moving parts there, I mean, it seems the Palmer United Party is a little less united than it was and Senator Lambie has made her decision.

I think the realisation that being elected to public office is a heavy responsibility and she reflected on that in her remarks today.

What it means is the Government will continue to engage – with courtesy and respect – with all of the crossbenchers, whether they are in a grouping or individually, that is the way we have to work, that is the way we do business.

DAVID SPEERS:

Does it make that job of governing and working with the Senate easier or harder?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Look, I think it may be both frankly.

If you are dealing with groups of people, maybe a group theme or a group issue or a group priority will facilitate a collaborative solution.

When that breaks down a little bit, maybe what each individual is looking for might be a little less readily defined.

DAVID SPEERS:

You did at least with Clive Palmer get the repeal of the Carbon Tax, the Mining Tax, Direct Action up, TPV’s as well, financial advice reforms, but they are now being undone. At least you got some stuff done with Clive Palmer; he doesn’t now carry the balance of power.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well but even with those discussions with the Senate and the crossbenchers, always working to find some common ground. That will not be different. Maybe now there are a few extra stops along the way, trying to work out where the Government’s policy agenda can be synchronised with the ambitions and goals of the crossbench Senators.

PUP used to be a group, now it is a slightly small group and we will engage with courtesy and respect with Senator Lambie however she chooses to go about grouping her arrangements and her representation.

DAVID SPEERS:

Except on the one issue she really wants movement on – and that’s defence pay. The Government is not budging on that is it?

MINISTER BILLSON:

No, we do not have a lot of room to move. I mean, what we are aiming to do is deliver the best-of-breed pay offer to our Defence personnel, mindful that we have got to get the budget back into a repaired state.

We start from a position where Labor left us with the lowest percentage of expenditure on defence since 1938.

It is important to reward our best defence assets, which are our people, but we also need to rebuild the hardware, the kit, our capability.

These things need to be done together and that is why we are keen to get an adequate pay deal settled and get on with the job of rebuilding defence capability because that is in the national interest, but it has to be done while we repair the budget also.

DAVID SPEERS:

I’ve got to ask you a small business question.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Sure, that would great. You and I do many interviews and I am busting to get a small business question. I know it is percolating within you.

DAVID SPEERS:

The Free Trade Agreement in particular with China now concluded, that does have a lot of opportunity for small business doesn’t it?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Delicious opportunities!

As a wise business person once said to me ‘There is no substitute for customers’.

Those trade arrangements open the doors to more customers. We still need to be at our best to make those opportunities our own, and to see the jobs and economic benefits, but that is what the rest of the Economic Action Agenda is about.

Here in Frankston we have got a producer of powdered milk who has just entered into a supply arrangement into China through the Buy Australia shop network. Another example where we can bring parties together, the best that we have to offer, our strengths and even in the services economy our architects, even Ronstan that make fittings for yachts not far from here, they have collaborated with architects…

DAVID SPEERS:

Is there a way that they can come to Government and say, I want to take advantage of this, how should I do it?

MINISTER BILLSON:

The best way is through Austrade, and we have got a few channels into that Government capability.

But never underestimate the wisdom of those that have already taken the journey. Getting involved with some of the Australia-China or Australia-India or Australia-Japan Chambers of Commerce, collaborating with those that have already found that pathway, landed in those countries, secured those opportunities. Lots of wisdom to be gained there and that is also a great way of tapping into those delicious markets, particularly for the service economy.

We are good in the service economy; this is where there is a much broader range of opportunities.

DAVID SPEERS:

Small Business Minister, the Member for Dunkley, thank you very much for joining us.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Great and make sure we talk about small business tonight!