12 June 2014

Doorstop Interview - Australia & PNG Industry & Mining Resources Exhibition, Cairns

Note
SUBJECTS: Budget, Small Business

Interview with Minister Bruce Billson discussing Budget and Small Businesses in Cairns

JOURNALIST:

What’s your visit for? What are you hoping to do?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well I am excited to be in Cairns, meeting with a lot of small businesses here at the Mining and Agricultural Exhibition and hearing what they are seeing first hand as field evidence. I will be talking with some school kids later today, Chambers of Commerce and local business people before moving into the Consumer Affairs Ministerial Council meeting that we have tomorrow here in Cairns.

JOURNALIST:

What are you hearing here? Are times getting a little tougher for people?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well we are hearing a range of views. Certainly that there are challenges in the mining industry, prices of key commodities moving around a little bit and having some reverberations through the market place. The one thing that I am here to make absolutely clear is that we are good friends of the mining industry; it’s a strength of our economy. We’ve got a Government that want’s to abolish the mining tax and take some of the costs that are in the industry, out of the industry so a world leading industry like mining can be world class and that’s one of the reasons that I am here as well.

JOURNALIST:

Is it too little too late though? I mean Downer EDI yesterday indicated that there are 400 jobs, a lot of them from here that might be on the line. Is that bad news?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well it’s a really challenging time for people involved in that decision not to continue with that contract. As I understand, it is a reflection of coal price reductions that have made costs a real challenge in the mining industry. There are certain things that Government can do and we are doing, including getting rid of the mining tax, abolishing the carbon tax and looking at getting rid of needless red tape. They are costs that we can address, that we have control over and that gives the mining industry the best foundation to compete internationally where you are seeing some price fluctuations. But our thoughts are very much with those that now have a less certain future than they were counting on.

JOURNALIST:

You’ve got a couple of pats on the back from people saying that you are doing good things for small business, compared to the previous government. What’s coming that you can also do to make it easier for small business?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well we’ve got a very comprehensive plan as part of our Economic Action Strategy including some reductions in company tax. That is a potential win for around 800,000 small businesses, many of who would love to be more profitable to get full benefit out of that. There are big head nods for the abolition of the carbon tax, it’s just a needless cost businesses can do without. We are looking at the competition laws, unfair contract terms, protections for smaller businesses, getting rid of that $1 billion of red tape – these are the things that small businesses keep talking to me about and it’s where Government can play its role to let small businesses and family enterprises be their best. The message I’ve heard today is ‘Bruce just keep going, communicate what you are doing, outline the comprehensive plan but keep at it.’ As you have heard from the exhibitors today, the Abbott Government is the best friend small business and family enterprises have had for many years and we are getting plenty of advice and encouragement to get on with our work.

JOURNALIST:

What are you expecting from the roundtable with the Chamber of Commerce?

MINISTER BILLSON:

This will be, I think, the third time I have met with the Chamber of Commerce in Cairns over my time as now Minister, but previously as Shadow Minister. Its important field evidence for me and the Government to hear first-hand from people with their houses on the line, trying to give their business a chance to flourish. We want to hear what they are experiencing and seeing and what we can do to make sure our performance is world class, so that those businesses can be world class as well and that’s the sort of interaction we have. Also, a bit of the update on what is in the budget, what we are trying to achieve, reaffirmation of our election commitments and the progress we are making to implement these. These are a really important discussion dialogue opportunities for me.

JOURNALIST:

Has it been a hard budget to talk up?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well it’s interesting. As I travel around most small business people know exactly what we are doing and why we need to do it because small businesses know you can’t pay your overdraft interest bill on your Visa card forever. You can’t load up business with debt and then hope to hand it on to your family to continue that business. We’ve got to get the Budget right and get the economic settings right and have a predictable environment, a sure footed Government with no huge surprises that supports enterprising people having a go. They just want to know what our plan is. They are welcoming of the measures we have taken and the thoughtfulness in the budget recovery and are urging us to keep communicating, keep working and keep at it. That is the big message that keeps coming back to us.