15 May 2014

Interview with Brooke Corte, Sky News Business

Note
SUBJECTS: Budget and small business

This is a transcript of Minister Billson's interview with Brooke Corte on Sky News Business. The topics discussed included the Budget and Small Business.

BROOKE CORTE:

The budget announced a new Ombudsman for the sector as well as new assistance programs, although others have been scrapped. The Small Business Minister Bruce Billson joins us now to talk a bit more about what this Budget could mean for your business. Thank you so much for your time this afternoon.

BRUCE BILLSON:

Thank you for inviting me on the show Brooke.

BROOKE CORTE:

One of the biggest spending announcements I suppose was this $400 million Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Program. Now there is not a lot of detail about that program and what it will deliver. Can you explain what that is and how small business will benefit from it?

BRUCE BILLSON:

Yeah it’s a range of initiatives that will be brought together within that $484 million package Brooke. It’s really about facilitating ventures to get off the ground, to get going and that enabling capacity will target smaller businesses.

What we had previously was quite a plethora of programs; sometime too many to even navigate. This will see a streamlining of those programs, a real focus on small and medium enterprises and it’s about saying where are the ideas? Where is the economic opportunity? Where can we play a constructive role to see small business achieve its reputation as the jobs and economic driver in our economy?

BROOKE CORTE:

The Government, through the budget, has been accused of withdrawing support for tech entrepreneurs and support for developing, I guess, more vibrant start-ups here in Australia. Through the removal of groups like Commercialisation Australia, the Innovation Investment Fund and the Enterprise Connect Program, which have been scrapped, are you saying their purpose will be kind of rolled into this new one? Where is the support for staff?

BRUCE BILLSON:

Well we’ve had some experience with a number of those programs and what we will be doing is bringing forward the best elements of those programs, streamlining their availability and then making sure, where there purpose is to help small and medium enterprises, that you don’t need to be a behemoth business to access them. So you will see the best elements of those brought together and carried forward under that Entrepreneurs Infrastructure package which is designed to make it easier and more accessible for small business and medium enterprises.

BROOKE CORTE:

The Ombudsman – let’s talk a bit about that. It was previously announced but this Budget allocated $8 million over four years to establish it. It’s for small business and family enterprise and it’s, I guess, a significant distinction that has been made that those two things will be included. It also replaces the Australian Small Business Commissioner, so again, how is this going to be different?

BRUCE BILLSON:

Well Australia has a small business commissioner without a commission. It’s a role without much teeth and we think that’s not really what small businesses are looking for. They are looking for a legislative back position, where an advocate can help a small business deal with any problem they may have. They will make sure when consultation is being undertaken on new programs or regulatory impact statements that small business is a part of that process.

It will help to resolve disputes. Some states have Small Business Commissioners designed to resolve disputes quickly so that the business parties can get back to business and that’s what the Ombudsman will do.

BROOKE CORTE:

But where do the teeth come from in the new Ombudsman?

BRUCE BILLSON: 

Well this will be a role that will have legislative backing; it will have a clear standing and authority across the Commonwealth. It will be a position that sits alongside and works effectively as an advocate for small business when they have disputes. It will offer a concierge service with other dispute resolution mechanisms either through state based Small Business Commissions or through a code mediation pathway.

The Ombudsman will also make sure that I am supported in my work. I am in Cabinet, talking about small businesses day in and day out and this role will support the Treasury officials in making sure everyone across the Commonwealth and its agencies has small business considerations front of mind and where a small business is facing problems, that they’ve got an ally and an advocate to resolve them quickly so the business can get back to business.

BROOKE CORTE:

Any changes in the Budget that do impact confidence or activity in the economy will impact small business - they are front line. The decision to index fuel, that will also result in increased costs for a lot of enterprises. They are going to have to absorb that extra cost in weak economy, aren’t they?

BRUCE BILLSON:

Yeah well we think it’s about a cent per litre, but we’ve made that decision in the context that we have to take the budget repair task seriously. Your viewers would know Brooke, if you’re starting to pay your overdraft fees, not pay down the overdraft but just the fees and interest off your visa card, you can’t do that for too long.

Yet that is what the Labor Government was previously doing in Canberra before there was a change to the Abbott Government. We have a big budget repair task and part of it includes how can we get the infrastructure in place that can move commerce and move commuters and create a more efficient way of moving goods and services.

That’s what the infrastructure funds that we are facilitating through that one levy. It will be indexed, it’s part of a big program, to build the roads that we need and the freight rail to build that capacity and set our economy up for the next generation. This is something that we haven’t seen and frankly something that a lot of viewers and a lot of people demand of Government.

We are taking a longer term view, building the infrastructure, getting the budget under control so we can see sustainable and predictable growth. We have done it in a way, mindful that we are seeing green shoots in the economy, but we didn’t want to burn those off by an excessive slash and burn exercise.

The budget includes modest reductions in outlays now which will repair the budget over time. It also includes measures designed to shift expenditure from consumption to investment for our future productive capacity to create jobs and strengthen the economy, because that’s what we were elected to do and that’s what we are getting on with.

BROOKE CORTE:

And of course it’s only the start. There are a handful of reviews including tax and competition and I know we will check in with you soon on those. Thank you so much Minister, we appreciate it.

BRUCE BILLSON:

Thanks for your interest Brooke.