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Transcript – 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Bruce Billson as Minister for Small Business

Sunday 20 September 2015

 BEN FORDHAM:

The new Cabinet has been sworn in by the Governor General. The first Cabinet meeting is on this afternoon. From a distance, the new Cabinet looks pretty good. There are some good communicators in there.

There are more women and there is some fresh blood. Some of these Ministers will be a roaring success, others will battle away and there is always one or two who will fall over. We do not know who is going to be up to the job until they are thrown into the deep end.

But the most important quality that is required in 2015 is the ability to communicate and that has been lacking for some time now in Canberra – good old fashioned communication skills.

The ability to engage, to get someone’s attention and when you have got their attention – to teach them something. This is the greatest challenge for these new Ministers, to simplify what they are saying and to do it with some sense of humour.

Malcolm Turnbull’s team has got lots of potential, but he has left out one of the best communicators in Cabinet. Bruce Billson was the Small Business Minister – he is in the Scott Morrison mould. I have called him the energiser bunny.

He has done a sensational job as Small Business Minister. The action and enthusiasm that Bruce Billson brought to the role was music to the ears of small business owners right around Australia. He presents his arguments with energy, with punch and with humour.

He is a mini Scott Morrison. And Bruce Billson used his voice in Cabinet and spoke regularly and loudly for the benefit of the small business community. Apparently this frustrated Malcolm Turnbull.

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting a Liberal source saying Bruce Billson was very vocal in Cabinet and the source said quote, “He does not let small business go,” Bruce Billson, and that give Malcolm the ****.

Malcolm apparently was sick of hearing Bruce speaking up for small business – that is one take anyway. Sadly, we have lost one of the great communicators from Cabinet.

In my opinion, Bruce Billson has emerged in the past two years as one of the best communicators in the Abbott Government. When it comes to Ministers, Scott Morrison – number one, Bruce Billson – number two. That is how highly I rate him.

But Bruce Billson has been punted from Cabinet by Malcolm Turnbull. He has made no secret of the fact that he wanted to continue his reforms for small business; but Malcolm sadly wanted Bruce gone.

He offered Bruce Billson another portfolio outside of Cabinet, but Bruce had already indicated that he only wanted to do small business. So Bruce is considering his future, he did not accept the other position.

It is a shame that the little bloke who punched above his weight and who spoke up above the crowd and represented small business in Cabinet is gone. The energiser bunny Bruce Billson has had his batteries taken out.

Kelly O’Dwyer the Small Business Minister – the new one – she will do a great job. She will do a terrific job. Bruce Billson, however, is a star and he has been punted from Cabinet and I think this is a great shame.

Malcolm Turnbull has shown some good judgement and creativity in choosing his Cabinet, but leaving out Bruce Billson just does not make sense. He is far too good of a communicator to leave on the sidelines.

What did Bruce Billson do to Malcolm Turnbull, I wonder? He must have run over Malcolm’s dog. I do not think that we can ignore the fact that communication skills are more important than ever before; the ability to engage, to get people’s attention and to get your message across.

Getting rid of Bruce Billson is like chopping off a finger. He might only be small, but he is very handy to have around. Malcolm please do something to get this bloke back on the team.

Peter Strong is Chief Executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia. He is on the line. Peter hello.

PETER STRONG:

I am good, and how are you? What you just said, you are spot on. He was, he is, of course, a great communicator and what he did for the small business community and for the economy was immeasurable in many, many ways.

The best thing we have ever seen in Parliament for small business.

BEN FORDHAM:

Oh, I am giving credit where it is due, I think Malcolm Turnbull has come up with some very creative choices and some strong communicators in Cabinet.

But when I heard over the weekend – somebody tipped me off that Bruce Billson was going to get the chop, I said to them, no, I mean, he won’t do that, Bruce Billson is one of the best communicators in the Government.

PETER STRONG:

Well, I am with you. I could not speak for ten minutes after I saw it, and by the way, let me agree with you about the make-up of Cabinet. It looks good. Birmingham, Frydenberg, Cash, Kelly O’Dwyer – as you say.

It has got a very good look about it and we will find out in the next twelve months what they are like. But having Bruce out of there, I see this as the machinations of big business.

I know that the Business Council and Wes Farmers and Woolworths have been trying to get rid of him for at least a year and a half. They have had a campaign, an undermining campaign to try to get rid of him.

So, you know, maybe that is also part of what has happened here. The big end of town have whispered in Mr Turnbull’s ear and he has listened to them.

BEN FORDHAM:

Well I love the fact that Bruce Billson was a strong advocate for small business. He was introducing – well trying to – an effects test into competition law to limit the power of big businesses.

But he was that annoying, sometimes frustrating voice in Cabinet – and I say annoying in the nicest possible way… I mean from Malcolm Turnbull’s point of view and for maybe some others because they were like when is Bruce ever going to shut up about small business?

I am glad he never shut up.

PETER STRONG:

Same here. As I said, we always adored the man. He fought a battle for us that nobody has ever fought before on so many fronts. And he got so many things done. There is still more to be done and hopefully Kelly O’Dwyer will run with it, obviously.

But as you say, he is a great communicator, he is good to be around, he makes you feel good and wherever he goes, people say positive things about him. You rarely ever heard anything negative about him – except from the big end of town.

BEN FORDHAM:

Let’s hope that they find a role for him. I know he has been offered something else, but it was not what he was after and I do not think that he is being too picky here.

I just think his enthusiasm for small business was so strong, he had received such great feedback from the small business community – and I know this, because I know a lot of people who run small businesses and I think he was just heart broken, more than anything else that he could not continue.

PETER STRONG:

Oh he was. He would be shattered. I mean, he is taking it well, I saw him on Twitter last night, he put out a picture of himself and his wife and his kids, and in the Twitter it said congratulations to the new Cabinet, it looks fantastic…

BEN FORDHAM:

I just lost Peter Strong there, as you could hear the phone line was going but we got the point from him. Bring back Bruce Billson!

I am not going to start a petition or anything; but Malcolm Turnbull I hope that you do not allow this great talent to disappear before time.

He has got a lot to offer and communication is so important in 2015 and you have got a bloke here who has got communication skills in spades. Scott Morrison – one. Bruce Billson – two.

Do not lose one of the great communicators from Cabinet.

[ends]