201502.11

Transcript – 3AW – Leadership, budget repair

DENIS WALTER:

The Honourable Bruce Billson, good afternoon.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Denis, good afternoon to you and your listeners.

DENIS WALTER:

We have been describing people in three words. As Minister for Small Business how do you describe yourself?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Usually it is: positive, passionate and persistent.

DENIS WALTER:

You need the persistence in your caper.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well you do. I mean, you have got to be upbeat and really work hard and give it your all, but in the caper I am involved with you have got to be prepared to keep going, keep going, keep going. And that is the three words that I bring to my work.

DENIS WALTER:

And take some of the knocks.
Now we were getting listeners to describe people -themselves or well-known people. Here are some of the callers from about thirty minutes ago re the Prime Minister.

AUDIO FROM PREVIOUS SEGMENT:

Hello I have got two lots of words to say about Tony Abbott. Out of touch and the second lot is definitely no idea.
On inheriting a $40 billion debt, I would say pretty bloody extraordinary.

There you are. Pretty bloody extraordinary.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well, it has been an extraordinary week and the task before the Prime Minister and the Government is extraordinary.

Trying to get us as a nation to live within our means and create more opportunities so our kids do not pay for the fact that we do not pay our way today and that is an extraordinary challenge and I suppose that feeds into the extraordinary week to date that we have had so far.

DENIS WALTER:

I heard Joe Hockey speaking with Neil Mitchell this morning. He was talking about if we do not, according to Mr Hockey, we are going to pass on a lesser standard of living.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes. He is absolutely right.

Today Denis, we as a Government will spend $100 million more than we bring in in revenue. And then that gets borrowed. And then those borrowings needed to be serviced. That is a billion dollars every month.

$30 million a day is being spent on interest and as we continue to spend more than we bring in in tax revenue, all we are doing is we are asking our kids to pay for our inability today to live within our means.

That is the point Joe was making and when you overlay that with the demography where today we have got about 5 people in the workforce for every retiree, by the middle of this century which is frankly is not that far away it will be 2.7 just under 3 people in the workforce for every retiree – we are gifting them an enormous challenge and debt from our generation that will really impact on their living standards into the future.
That is important work. We have got to get it right.

DENIS WALTER:

Two problems with that is that when you say $100 million a day I do not think that sinks in with people. They think it is a figure coming from a politician. And the other thing is I think we live in a time where people want something for themselves now.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes I think that is right but I guess everybody, and certainly in my view, the great promise of our country is that the next generation will have it better than we had it.

That has been our history and our story as a country yet if things are not changed, if adjustments are not made, we will deny that to the future generations and frankly I think we are all in this together.

We have got to get this right. We have got to make a success of it because that goes to the kind of country we have into the future.

DENIS WALTER:

Roger – your question for the Honourable Bruce Billson.

CALLER:

Yes, hello Denis. Hello Minister.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Hi Roger.

CALLER:

It is just a really quick one today. The previous Government never understood the difference with entities [inaudible]…Talking about business cuts, extra taxation…Listening to the Prime Minister, even the Treasurer this morning, talking about small business tax cuts at the moment. Is that likely to filter through to businesses or are you talking purely about companies?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Thanks Roger, really good question and that is the task the Prime Minister has given me.
What has been announced in the speech at the Press Club is that the starting point will be a one and a half cut for small business and that big businesses will be no worse off.

But your question is very perceptive.

Only about a third of small businesses are structured as companies. The others operate through different structures and different entities and that is -frankly – the work that I am deeply involved with as we speak Roger. Trying to work out how the incentive and the encouragement of the tax cuts to energise enterprise can work its way across the various entities or structures through which small business people engage in our economy.

That is work in progress.

That is certainly the tasking that I have and that reflects the nature of the Prime Minister’s speech to the Press Club.

DENIS WALTER:

Mr Billson we keep hearing the same words over and over. Let us have an example of that.

AUDIO OF PRIME MINISTER:

That is an absolutely rock solid, iron clad commitment.

And we will stand together. We have a strong plan.
I know my colleagues. I trust my colleagues. I respect my colleagues. I know my colleagues.

Do you think we can drop a few of the slogans?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I was asked this on television Denis about slogans and it is funny how people think something they hear, they do not like is dismissed as a slogan when it might actually be the precise and accurate reflection of the thought the person is having.

I know for me I often use words that people look at and think why does he use that term? One is ‘our country and the delicious opportunities that are out there’, and they think I am some kind of Bruce McAvaney, but it is turn a phrase that sits well and communicates what is my thought. So I think at times the argument that something that is really firmly felt, accurately reflects the person’s thinking they go ‘oh it is just a slogan’.

DENIS WALTER:

But they are just slogans and we have been told, it was on the news last night, that we have got a new government federally, it even came up with the state government, we have got a new state government from this day on.

Maybe we need some new speak and perhaps simpler everyday speak.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes well that is something I really say ‘hear, hear’ to at the risk of sounding like a politician.
We need to be able to communicate and the definition of good communication is being able to convey meaning, conveying what you are thinking and what the point is that you are trying to get across in a way that people can understand it.
Too often I think politicians talk in Canberra speak or in government circle speak and that is why you find some people thinking what is it they have actually said? I do not quite get that.

Frankly, we need to do more to make sure we are speaking in a way that is well understood and people can understand what our motives are, what our goals are and why there is a need to take action.

DENIS WALTER:

Here is some audio from Family Feud last night. People of voting age asked about our Prime Ministers.

AUDIO:

Grant Denyer: Name a former Prime Minister of Australia.
Contestant: I’m going to say Bush.
Grant Denyer: You never know what Australia says. Well let’s try.
Contestant: Absolutely.
Maybe Minister some people are just not paying attention.


MINISTER BILLSON:

We are just presuming that the answerer was thinking of George Bush and not Kate Bush but that is a discussion for another day.

DENIS WALTER:

Maybe politicians who are Prime Ministers who came from the bush?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It does reflect a reality I see every day and I am sure you and your listeners do as well.
Some of us are very consumed in what is happening in the political circles. For others, they hope governments are like good footy umpires, that they do such a good job you do not notice that they are there and that people can go on and get on with the ambitions and goals they have for their lives.

DENIS WALTER:

A couple of quick questions from listeners. John.

CALLER:

Yes hi Denis. Hi Minister.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Hey John.

CALLER:

Is it true when a company reaches the $2 million mark they have to pay GST upfront?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good question. The companies have an option above $2 million. They can remit their payments- I think it is monthly or quarterly.

There are variations though in the timing of your GST or your BAS contributions depending on the size of your business.

If you get much bigger well above $2 million then you are obliged to do it monthly. But when you are in that smaller area you have a choice of working that through with the tax office.
But if you need some specific info on that I can give that to you John and happy to steer you through the joys of completing BAS returns and paying the contributions.

DENIS WALTER:

John, thank you. Peter?

CALLER:

Yes good day Minister. I have just got a few quick questions.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes Peter.

CALLER:

If we are that far in debt and we must address that debt, even though I think we are servicing it, what did your party hand back the Mining Tax to the miners, got rid of the Carbon Tax, sold Medibank and then you buy all these jet fighters and you will not let the Aussies build their submarines and you will not let the Aussies build the frigates?
It creates work and creates money and wealth within the country, yet you are going offshore with this.

MINISTER BILLSON:

There is a bit in all of that Peter and I will try and answer each of them as I recall them.
The issues around expenditure need to be addressed.

The Mining Tax raised virtually no revenue but made us less attractive as a country for people to invest in and therefore build from our strengths in the mining industry.

My firm view is that it was counterproductive. It raised no revenue, yet it encouraged people to invest elsewhere.
That is why that one was gone.

The Carbon Tax. I do not think Labor ever said it was purely about being a revenue raiser. You might remember they were arguing it was something to do with the climate, and our point was that when you had that tax applied there was a whole lot of increases in payments and changes to income tax rates to soften the harm and the financial impact of the Carbon Tax.

Our view was it was acting as a reverse tariff actually making it harder for our businesses to compete internationally and making life more expensive for households and it was damaging to the economy.

DENIS WALTER:

Would you hang around for a couple of minutes?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes sure.

DENIS WALTER:

We will take a couple more calls and then we are into love and marriage here on afternoons with Denis Walter.

** [Advertisement break]

Alan, your question for Bruce Billson.

CALLER:

Well, I just think that one of the things with the Liberal Government is they do not have any real vision for the country. They are certainly locked into an economic position which is not really necessary.
Quantitative easing is the way to go. The rest of the world is doing it. Australia, wake up.
DENIS WALTER:
Bruce?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Alan is making a point that good economic outcomes are not an end in themselves they actually enable us to live better qualities of life and get the services that we need and we can be confident that they are there into the future.

Alan is talking about quantitative easing. Just to share with your listeners what that is – in some countries they have taken action to drive down the value of their currency by putting more money into their economy and therefore a lower exchange rate is viewed as a way of being better able to get exports and to build up their economy.
What we have got in our country is that, unlike in Europe and other parts of the world that where interests rates are virtually zero, we still have some capacity with our interest rates to bring them down to have a similar effect without having the risk of junking our own currency.

So that is the choice that some countries have taken Alan. You are right to point out that that is happening around us. We need to look at the tool kit that we have to grow and bolster the economy because that means better qualities of life, better opportunities for all our citizens. Getting the economy right is a precondition for strong and healthy and sustainable communities.

DENIS WALTER:

As a young mum, Amanda has joined me in the studio here Bruce and has a question for you.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Hi Amanda. How are you?

CALLER:

Hi Bruce. I love the title ‘young mum’.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I like that one. No one calls me young any longer. I do not know what that one is about.

CALLER:

Now Bruce we have got three kids at our local primary school and I have been hearing in the news about the school fees. I was just wondering, I think it was nearly well over $1000 or $1500 to send them back to primary school. Is that right that we are paying more in Victoria for this?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It varies from state to state. What the Commonwealth does Amanda is make available funding to the states and territories and then the states and territories set up their education systems – hopefully in accordance with the national curriculum – and make decisions about which students need to make a contribution.
There is some financial help for those that are really in a troubled situation.

But the idea that education is free is an absolute nonsense. By the time you pay for uniform, a lot of schools look to you to make a contribution for the technology your kids might need, things like camps and what are described as extracurricular activity look pretty essential in the eyes of most parents.

Having kids at school whether they are in the government system or in the low-fee private system or in some of the more expensive private schools – gee there is no free education around these days.

DENIS WALTER:

Bruce Billson thanks for giving us some time today and having a good chat to listeners.

[ends]