3 July 2014

Interview with Mark Braybook, 4BC Brisbane

Note
SUBJECTS: Budget, small business

This is a transcript of the Hon Bruce Billson's interview with Mark Braybrooks, 4BC Brisbane. The main topics discussed were the Budget and small business

HOST:

Shop Small is a grant program that’s open to all Australian small businesses. There are 120 grants of $5,000 being made, that’s about $600,000 worth thanks to American Express and the Federal Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson is on the line. Minister good afternoon.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good afternoon to you Mark and to your listeners.

HOST:

Small business I think is the lifeblood of our country. It is those people that work hard, work long, for not necessarily great return but it’s nice to finally see them get a little bit of an incentive.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I couldn’t agree more. I mean the men and women of small businesses and family enterprises; really we have so much to thank them for. Not only their efforts in creating economic opportunities for themselves and others, but half of the livelihoods that people have working for a private sector boss actually is accommodated by a small business. This is a crucial part of our economy. This program says to our consumers if you value these small businesses, as you and I do Mark and so many of your listeners. It’s not really just enough to be affectionate, you’ve actually got to go and spend some money with them and this program, Shop Small, is reminding people that if you value those small businesses and family enterprises that offer you choice, convenience, customer service, a personal touch and are real innovators in our economy, we need to put some of our hard earns into those businesses to keep them viable and energised. What American Express is doing is they are playing their part, helping to remind people of the crucial role of small business and are encouraging those businesses to apply for one of these grants.

So it’s a good program but an important message that underlines it all.

HOST:

So how can people go about accessing the grants? Is there a website?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It’s an American Express initiative and I suppose they make no bones about you needing to be a small business that takes American Express cards, so that’s something that people can check out. But it’s about saying to consumers, yes some of these small businesses might use American Express but all of them are making an extraordinary contribution to our economic vitality, the chance for livelihoods in or community. They are really taking on the big guys as well. The big guys do a good job and they’ve got their strengths as well but the small businesses, they are the engine room of our economy. Shop Small is about an acknowledgement of them and also some encouragement to consumers to make use of those smaller merchants and businesses.

HOST:

No disrespect to the bigger brands etc., they play a pivotal role as well but surely when you and I were growing up that’s what we just had. We had those relationships with small businesses and you could build a relationship with your local, particularly corner store or someone that lived in the suburb. Invariably so many people in your suburb or particular area were able to be employed and get their start maybe in their career through the local small business.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well that’s right. I remember the corner store where I was working as a lad while I was at school and then at the newsagency doing all the returns of newspapers that weren’t sold and this was part of building my workplace know how. But this was also a part of our community. Let’s be frank, many mortgage their houses. You know, they’ve got real skin in the game trying to make a go of it and what we are saying as a government is this area of our economy has been under appreciated; it hasn’t had the support that it’s needed. Under the previous government Mark there were 519,000 jobs lost in small business but because they were sprinkled across communities and across the country they might not have been as visible as some other job losses that perhaps a car plant or something like that. But no less important are those jobs and more importantly, that economic activity, that’s right across our continent so those small communities rely on family business and small enterprises. Our own neighbourhoods, our own suburbs and even in our big cities like Brisbane, those corner store businesses, the little restaurants, cafes are people having a go and you can build a relationship with them. They are keen to serve, they innovate, they provide a great level of service and we are just saying recognise that vital contribution to the economy and when you are thinking about a spending decision, consider shopping small.

HOST:

Is it fair to say that small businesses rely so much too on a positive vibe that people, if you can be positive about the economy, positive about the way the future looks that the small businesses seem to gain more out of that than the bigger companies?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Sentiment plays an important part in our economy. When people are optimistic or more particularly, when they are positive but sure footed in the sense that there is a clear picture ahead and people can make decisions with confidence and predictability, that can be not only very important for households making a decision about whether it’s time to buy a new car or invest in something that might be a big spend for them, but also for small businesses as they map their business course, trying to work through what economic opportunities are there and importantly, what the consumer sentiment is.

It’s one of the reasons we are working so hard to get this Carbon Tax abolished because it will put spending power back into consumers’ pockets, but it will also take cost pressures out of those businesses and help with their viability, their capacity to compete and build confidence and optimism on the way through.

HOST:

I think it’s a terrific thing and supporting small businesses, establishing that relationship, it just builds community which seems to be lacking nowadays. Once again, I don’t mean it’s a criticism, you know I yearn for the days where the local shopping centre was there, as well as the big one but now it seems that we just go to the big shopping centre and that smaller, convenient, homely style collection of shops just around the corner seems to be disappearing. I think that’s not necessarily a good thing.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I think that’s right. We value the contribution of our big businesses, they are big contributors to our economy, they employ an awful lot of Australians and that’s great. But to get that economic resilience, the diversity and the livelihoods in our communities and to build the sense of community and the vitality in the places where we live. Small businesses are crucial. Some of these small businesses that I get to meet are world class every day and they deserve the support. Other businesses know it’s a tough environment, the big guys have got very well refined strategies to try and grow their opportunities. What we are saying is small businesses are just as important to our economy as big business. We want efficient businesses big and small to thrive and prosper, to see Australia as the best place to start and grow a business. We are also saying to consumers like you and I Mark and many of your listeners, we value these businesses but being fond of them isn’t enough. We need economic activity in them and Shop Small is about saying show your support by spending some of your hard earned in these businesses.

HOST:

Now Minister just before I let you go, we did have an interview earlier in the program with Patrizia Torelli, who is the CEO of the Australian Furniture Association about these azo dyes which seem to be in products all the time, and furniture now is being hit. One of the problems the Australian Furniture Association has, as a lot of our manufacturers here is that they have different rules compared to the importers. One of my listeners asked to ask a government department why our Australian manufacturers are held more accountable than imported products and which department should we talk to. Who is responsible for that sort of legislation.

MINISTER BILLSON:

There is a bit in that question. If it’s in terms of product safety then the State Fair Trading offices and the ACCC at a nation level, which I’m responsible for, have a central role in making sure the products in our economy are safe. A number of these azo dyes, not all of them, but a number of them have a risk of being a carcinogenic, where if they are close to the skin for an extended period of time and people are perspiring, well they are the ones that have been the focus of the recall that a number of retailers have been involved in. The ACCC and the State based Fair Trading and Consumer Affairs agencies have tested a number of these products, found them not meeting our safety standards and that’s what has activated a recall. In terms of the furniture space, let me do a bit more work on that Mark because they are also subject to constraints about what type of fabric and material can be used. What we learned through the recent episode of jeans and pillowcases and some other fashion items, is that the companies in Australia had ordered certain types of dyes to be used but somewhere along the supply chain the overseas manufacturer has substituted an azo dye which was prohibited for what the Australian company had actually ordered.

So there was an issue there about whether the companies were getting what they were paying for and what they ordered, and they are pursuing that with their manufactures and at a safety level, that’s why the recall has been there to see those items pulled off the shelves.

In terms of the fabrics used in furnishing, let me check that out but as I was saying, not all azo dyes fall into this hazardous category and there are some conditions about how they are used that give rise to the concern that saw the recall. That may or may not be directly relevant to the furniture industry but let me check it out.

HOST:

Yeah it’s a serious issue when we are talking about cancer causing dyes. As I mentioned in the interview with Patrizia, we have warnings on cigarette packets that these products cause cancer and we are having furniture, or jeans or sheets or whatever it may be that have these products and I think the thing that was concerning Patrizia and a legitimate question is, we do have such stringent and quite correctly stringent levels that our own manufacturers have to reach but it seems that the overseas manufacturers don’t have to maintain those standards, which seem seems to be an un level playing field Minister.

MINISTER BILLSON:

That’s usually not the case. Usually, well there are some rare exceptions which relate to closer economic trading relationships with New Zealand for instance. We could get into a long discussion around certain vegetables and chemicals that are used in New Zealand that aren’t used here but because we have a rule between our two countries that says if it’s okay in your country, then it’s okay in ours and that applies vice versa. But in the area that you’re talking about, NICNAS which is a cute acronym that I won’t trouble all of your listeners with basically says there has been a national process to work out what chemicals that are used in industry and commerce are unsafe. There is a listing of those that draws from the World Health Organisation and other expert opinions and where the conclusion has arrived at that this stuff is unsafe, and then they are not to be circulating in our economy. So if there has been some slip up or a lack of testing in the furniture industry, I’ll get onto the association and find out a bit more about that so we can get to work on it.

HOST:

One thing we all agree on Minister is that the best way to avoid any drama is to buy Australian because you know it’s good.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Absolutely. It’s a bit like the Shop Small, it’s also buy local. If you and I get our message out Mark which is get behind these local businesses. We just bought a dishwasher and we paid a little bit extra but we got one that was made here and that is our way of saying we value that economic activity, we respect the contribution of the businesses that are in some cases taking on the world to bring those opportunities. We should be getting behind them like we do with many other of our national champions and our small businesses are definitely part of our national champions.

HOST:

Well Minister we are talking with one of them soon, David Smith who is a local shirt maker here at Robina on the Gold Coast and his shirts are now being sold right around the world by some super celebrities who have seen his shirts and are buying and wearing them around the world. It’s just a husband and wife team on the Gold Coast who are making inroads.

MINISTER BILLSON:

You’ve got one on I hear? Are you the official eye candy?

HOST:

No im definitely not. My wife bought it for me, it’s a paisley shirt. The one I am wearing today, there is a photo on our facebook page which doesn’t do it justice because the camera fades the photo a bit, but the one I wore on Monday does it a lot more justice. But they are wonderful shirts. I reckon you would look okay in parliament wearing one too Minister. Have a look and see what you reckon. David Smith is his name, have a look. Good on you mate, thanks for your time.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Thanks Mark.

HOST:

Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson and if you want more information about those small business grants that you could be eligible for head to Americanexpress.com.au