Transcript – Sky, Peter Switzer – Jobs, economy


Subjects: Small Business Budget Package, strengthening jobs and the economy


 One of the government’s greatest achievements in 2015 was the Small Business Initiative, which gave businesses up to $20,000 tax offsets per equipment purchased. This has been sighted by the likes of JB HI FI as a part of its improved proper performance recently.

Small Business Minister, Bruce Billson, joins us from our Canberra studio to tell us what else his government has in store for the sector. Hi Bruce.


 Peter, good to be with you.


Now Bruce, I have got to say, I am an old fashioned kind of person who is sick of politics – you know, same sex marriage, entitlements, helicopters and all the other rubbish that has been dominating news.

I would rather talk about government policy. You have killed them with the budget; it has been regarded as a very good initiative. What was your input into that $20,000 decision? Do not tell me it was all Joe’s.


 No, I have got to say, I was all over it like a fat kid on a smartie, Peter. I must say, in fact, having crafted the entire package; I worked very hard on that and worked through the range of measures that we might be able to incorporate.

The instant asset right off, that was a particularly important measure because we wanted to actually support people with an idea or an ambition, Peter, and then put in place a measure that would be catalytic, that would turn that idea and ambition into action.

But let’s not forget the other parts of the package as well the Small Business Company Tax Cut- the lowest Small Business Company tax rate since 1967. Just last week, other measures, the third tranche of that package went through the parliament.

That is the 5 per cent discount on income tax paid by the two-thirds of small businesses that are not actually incorporated. Tidying up some of the FBT exemptions, you know if you give one of your staff an iPad but then you give them an iPhone as well; you are at risk of having to pay FBT.

Another one was around the professional service expenses that you pay when you are starting a business or perhaps pitching for crowd source equity funding. We thought that was ridiculous to depreciate that over three years. That is now instantly deductable.

Let us not forget the Employee Share Schemes as well, Peter. We have put life, put the paddles on, brought to life the Employee Share Scheme system once again after that bad tax change that Labor introduced; where you had a tax liability when an option was issued.

So, no material gain, nothing that you could – nothing bankable, but you had a big tax liability and we thought that was terrible. So we have got Employee Share Schemes back in the frame again; a great way to align objectives with that of the team.

We are getting on with it.


 You said let’s not forget. I have got to say, some of those I did forget and I am not blaming me. I am blaming your government for not talking this up more often.


 You have got to have me on more. I know Stan Grant on your other channel is probably devastated with all the viewers that have come over to listen to two blokes talk about small business policy.

But, the real thing that I thought was changed and I made this point in my National Press Club Speech – it was as if small business was the new black. It is the Israeli couscous that we see on My Kitchen Rules or yogalates that you and I as fitness freaks would know about.

It became very fashionable even though you and I have been talking about it for many years. There is more work going on to make this economy the kind of entrepreneurial eco-system that encourages, supports and nurtures men and women of enterprise.

The Crowd Source Equity Funding work, we have got the discussion paper out on what we can do in that space, unfair contract terms; that has passed through the House of Representatives – an important protection for small business.

And just about an hour ago, the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, another key policy and election commitment has passed through the parliament. So we are really getting on with the job and we are starting to see results.

Jobs growth in the small business economy, record numbers of company formations, women starting more businesses than men – there is a lot happening and a lot we should be positive about.


 You must have been happy last week, I saw the Australian headlining the Treasurer talking about tax cuts. The AFR then said he is fighting with the Reserve Bank for tax cuts and then the Treasurer said we are on a path to prosperity.

These are the sort of things that the country needs to hear. Is there a Cabinet decision to start talking up the economy the way they should?


 I think we have all got to focus on the economy and jobs. I did say in Question Time today, Peter, and you might have missed it and some of your viewers might have as well; I recounted a report on ABC news radio…


 … of course we missed it Bruce!


 … radio this morning…


 Of course we missed it, we were busy doing stuff. But go on, tell us what you said.


 I recounted a headline news item on news radio on ABC this morning which said unexpected jobs growth a boost for the economy. I thought – at last some factual, economic evidence being shared with the Australian public. Then it went on to talk about how it was the United States’ economy.

Our economy is growing jobs at a stronger rate than the United States, Canada, the UK. In fact, all the G7 economies, yet you cannot quite get that message out. So we have got to keep focusing on the things that matter for people.

That is their livelihoods; that is for those that mortgage their house and their first born to create jobs for themselves and the economy; getting in behind those people and having a go and as you know, that is where I put my energies every day.


 Do you get frustrated with the media? That we do preoccupy ourselves, present company excluded of course, we do as a group preoccupy ourselves with bad news stories.

For example, the Reserve Bank came out reasonably positive on the economy today but I have not seen a headline on that particular story yet.


 Yeah, look it is funny. I do not know what it is. It is sort of this media and press self-flagellation. It is this great effort to find any story that has got some negative spin on it and to look at the economy through a straw as if there is only one little bit and if you hone in on that one little piece of information, it tells a broader story; when the economic fundamentals are incredibly positive.

We have had, I think it is 60 of the ASX 200 reporting already. 70% are reporting results better than last year. You talked earlier about the instant asset right off measure. 16 out of 18 sectors in our economy have seen an increase in their cap expense; building their capacity to delight their customers.

I mean, there are many good things going on. The jobs growth, the highest participation rate of women in our economy and the FTAs – we cannot let the unions get away with trash talking what is the future of our economy and that is opening to door to hundreds and millions of new prospective customers that we can delight to grow our economy with.

While they are running around spreading utter lies and nonsense about what is in the FTA agreement about labour access – which has not changed one dot from the arrangements that were in place under Labor.

Yet, they are running around making it sound like you will not have a qualified electrician able to work on your house – which is utter, utter nonsense. We have got to take these issues on. Our future and our economy needs us getting these things right.

The mining boom has been good to us, but that is coming off. We have got to you know, let a thousand flowers bloom, Peter and really get that eco-system right for entrepreneurship in our economy.


 Okay, one of the big negatives after the budget before last was how that negativity because of that parliamentary stand-off around those budget measures.

If ultimately, rolled into a potential leadership challenge, and people are talking about leadership challenges again, that is not good for confidence mate. Are we going to see another leadership challenge?


 No. We have got work to do and we have got to get on with it. There is no substitute for performance. Our policy agenda, our economic action strategy, is precisely what we need.

We need to guard against acts of political self-harm, where we venture off on frolics and conversations that are not really the focus of the vast majority of the Australian population. It is about staying disciplined and focused and getting on with the job.

The performance is there. We are seeing really strong fundamentals and an improving picture for jobs and the economic outlook – all hard earned when there is lots of external headwinds and lots of uncertainty in the international economy.

We have got to be world class in our policy work so that our businesses can succeed in this increasingly competitive environment and that our population understands our future prosperity is not reserved for us.

We have to work for it. Put the policy settings in place. Budget repair – that is happening. Half a percent of GDP each year, we are getting there; but not at such a rate to burn off the many green shoots that are there in our economy.

That is the task we have got and that is the economic leadership I try and provide through my work.


 Okay, so you are certain we are not going to see a leadership challenge this year?


 No. We have got to get on with the job. I am certain that the whole team is focused on getting on with the job.


 I hope that is the case. Because that is what the economy needs. We need unity in Canberra and the economy to keep on improving as it has. Bruce, thanks for joining us on the show.


 Thanks Peter and we have got to get this right because we are the hope of the side for the country. The other crowd have not got a plan at all and that is not going to take us anywhere, into a nice place into the future.


 Well, I am surprised you would act like a politician at the end of an interview, but thanks for joining us mate.


 I thought one chance was not too many.


 Alright mate, thanks for joining us.