30 July 2014

Official launch of Start Up Australia, Sydney


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I’m a bit shell shocked, I don’t normally get an introduction like that. Thanks, that was terrific.

It is genuinely a thrill to be amongst you today and I’m quite humbled because I’m here amongst so many wonderful success stories. I wish I could say I was one of those, but our enterprising adventure has left us with a behemoth mortgage and much wisdom.

We’ve learnt that the pillow talk of cash flow isn’t quite what everybody wants in their life when they’re putting their head down at night, talking about the delicious possibilities ahead and a reminder that we’ve got payroll and rents to make, while wondering where those customers are.

It’s quite an experience owning a small business; it’s a journey not everyone has taken. It’s something that, unless you, and I say this both with sincerity and a touch of irony, unless you’ve lived the dream of mortgaging your house and your first born, and sadly your mojo and peace of mind, to pursue an enterprising idea that you believe passionately in, it can be difficult to understand especially to your family.

It is handy that public life, politics and smaller microbusiness are the same in that ruthless exploitation of family and friends is often used to get things going and to try and communicate in a way, that the sparkle in the eye and the fire in the belly that led you to the point where you decided to have a go.

You know there are other choices, you know there are safer pathways, you know you are getting lots of advice and statistics that are character building in their own right, but when applied to your own journey are quite confronting. You know that all of that is around you but still, you think, I’ll take those risks, I will embark on something I believe passionately. I will create my own opportunities and through my enterprise, provide livelihoods and economic growth and vitality to communities and our economy more broadly.

That isn’t everybody’s journey. But surely it’s recognised as being so important that we have to celebrate that journey. I’m happy to start on a journey with no idea where I’m going to finish. But not everyone’s like that, not everyone’s like that.

Yet for those enterprising Australians that are so inclined, surely it’s beholden on all of us to do the very best we can. To partner, to support, to encourage, to recognise and respect, to say to them we value what you’re doing because it is putting energy and enterprise into our economy and that’s what we need, because not everyone can be on a salary where someone else is concerned about those things that concern all of you. Not everyone is inclined to take risks.

And that’s why today is truly a great day, a great day. We share a deep passion for all that you do and a great respect that we want to make sure that the journey you’ve been on is better supported and the entrepreneurial ecosystem within which you operate is more conducive to success, that the barriers and obstacles, the headwinds that don’t need to be there are removed. That the challenges that you face; there are allies and advocates working alongside to support your enterprise and I do that not only as a reflection of my own journey, but thinking about where our country is going in the longer term.

You know, we’ve been blessed by nature with resources that give us a competitive advantage and we see that we’ve benefitted from that. But as we look over the horizon of the economy of the future, we can’t bank on that. That’s not going to sustain our living standards and our quality of life. What will do that is entrepreneurial spirit, the innovation, the drive, the risk taking, the new markets, the new products, the new businesses, the new livelihood opportunities that all of you have as part of your story. I want to share that story. I want to say to young Australians and more mature Australians, you can make your own opportunities too.

There are livelihoods where you shape those. Self-employment is virtuous and how rewarding is it to create livelihood opportunities for others? We don’t do enough to celebrate that, we don’t confront this theory that profit is a bad word. Say, no no no, without it where is the incentive to invest and recruit? Where is the reward for the risk taking? We need to reframe that conversation and I apologise for being slightly evangelical, I get called Pastor Bruce by our Prime Minister. I wondered whether it was because he thinks I’ve eaten too much pasta…but anyway, you can work that out yourselves.

But it is, now is the time to energise enterprise in our country and in our economy. To say that this is the pathway forward in an ageing population, where some of the blessings of nature aren’t enough to sustain the quality of life and the great promise of our country, that we all work to make sure the next generation’s opportunities are better than our own.

That won’t happen just by wishing for it. We need to work for it. And the energy that drives that is enterprise and entrepreneurship. So this is what’s great about today, the window cleaners get a sense of it, this will be like the Woodstock of entrepreneurship – everyone will say they were here today, everybody. There’ll be 4,000 people squeezed into this room and say I was there and, what did you think of Brian’s tie, you know, and that’ll be the test. They know it was yellow.

But this is such an important time, and I say that for a range of reasons. We’ve lost 519,000 jobs in small business under six years from the previous Government. That’s 1,544 every week. And they might not be union jobs and that might be why they didn’t get the attention.

Or they might not be all in one workplace as tragic as 120 people perhaps losing their jobs in a car component operation. It is a tragedy for them and all that are involved but no less is it a tragedy for the person working in a corner store or the small business person who has not only lost their livelihood, they’ve lost their house.

I often say to people, it’s like breakfast – you know when you have bacon and eggs for breakfast – I say, that’s a bit what it’s like. You know the chicken’s involved with the egg but by golly wasn’t the pig committed.

And that’s what being an entrepreneur is, it’s that level of commitment. So I’m saying to you, please let’s join together, at a level of Government we can make sure that the entrepreneurial environment is more enabling.

Get rid of the nonsense that gums up the economy. Tackle the red tape that’s needless and unnecessary and adds nothing. Deal with the importance of having small business and family enterprise and entrepreneurship elevated as a key imperative of good decision making and the activity of Government.

I’m one of the 20 people that sit in Cabinet deciding the trajectory of our nation and I can assure you not a moment passes without your interests and your concerns being advocated and inculcated into that work.

But we need that in our regulators and we need that in our broader population. So when I attend my 965th debutant ball and I hear about people’s ambitions for the future and they talk about playing for the Melbourne Storm. That’s insensitive isn’t it, that more might say, no I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to create my own opportunities, develop my own products, find new markets, lead the charge and I will get great satisfaction out of my success and the opportunities I create for others as well.

To celebrate that, that’s what the G20 was about. In this city and in Melbourne, we all got together. The 20 largest economies saying we want to grow our economies at a plus two percent rate - and we’re back, the guys are back.

We agreed we need to grow our economies at two percent faster than businesses usual if we are to maintain living standards, if we are to offer those livelihood opportunities with a strength and resilience in our economy.

There is no scenario where that can be achieved without energising enterprise, without getting the engine room of the economy, those start up micro small and family businesses operating and optimising their potential, that is in every plan. But it’s not enough just to talk about it; we need to take action to support it.

My work is about making sure independent contracting and self-employment matters, strengthening unfair contract terms protections to stop small businesses getting pushed around and harmed by big businesses because they can. I’m also looking at our competition framework so that businesses big and small all have an opportunity to thrive and prosper.

We are working to get those economic bodies to understand that not every business has 20 people in a compliance department and working to cut red tape. We are measured as 128th in the world in terms of the burden of red tape and compliance, there are 127 economies that have less gummed up regulatory and compliance burden than ours and that’s not good enough.

So as all of you work to be world class to succeed, so must Government in its work. And that’s why advice, field evidence, wise counsel and your experience is so important.

But you also are the pathfinders; you know I think most people are born with that sparkle in their eye, the fire in their belly to be entrepreneurs, to map their own path, to see a world of delicious possibilities and wanting to make some of it their own.

I think people are born that way but something happens on the way through. Risk aversion, role models that take different pathways, options that look simpler and safer, but we need to turn that around and say be confident, benefit from the wisdom of the pathfinders in this room.

The wise counsel, you know the grasshoppers - in a kung fu sense - you can share some guidance and advice and nourish that entrepreneurship because we need a renaissance of entrepreneurship, that’s why I am so excited about this and I’m so pleased to see all of you are a part of that because the wisdom in this room is priceless.

But it also is a great motivator, people thinking is that for me? Maybe. And I look around and I see those who have made that journey and they inspire and they illuminate the pathway, they help provide solutions to problems that might be potentially overwhelming. And they provide respect and acknowledgement and the encouragement that we need.

Today is the birth of a renaissance in enterprise, it’s the Woodstock of entrepreneurship, the godfather that put so much energy into it and you all have nourished it as well. I’m absolutely thrilled to be here today, to launch this great initiative and may many entrepreneurs bloom and enterprises blossom, and may the next generation think, you know, what I want to do is be just like you guys.

Thanks for having me here today.