3 July 2014

Interview with Rob Broadfield and Kent Roberts, 6PR Breakfast

Note
SUBJECTS: American Express Shop Small campaign, small business

This is a transcript of the Hon Bruce Billson's interview with Rob Broadfield and Kent Roberts, 6PR Breakfast. The main topics discussed were the American Express Shop Small campaign and small business.

HOST:

When you see what is happening here, a lot of Western Australians do have a dip don’t they?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well that is what we are trying to encourage because we are about two key things. Yes we are a fair go country and that’s really part of who we are. But we also need to encourage the ‘have a go’ element in our nation. We’ve got a lot of enterprising people, men and women, and women particularly who are stepping forward. I think they are now more likely to be the job drivers and the entrepreneurs which is quite a shift in that respect but what we need to say to those people is that we respect you, we value you, and we admire your courage. You know mortgaging your house and your first born to have a go, create jobs for yourselves and livelihoods for your community. That deserves our support and that’s what we are trying to bring to the table.

HOST:

Good on you and Bruce one of the reasons we are talking to you this morning is this announcement of the $600,000 in grants which are available to small businesses from the Australian Government, but exactly why? What’s the criterion and what’s the point?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well there are a few things. There are a range of grants available through programs that the Commonwealth offers. The ones that you are referring to are actually seeing American Express step up and as part of their ‘Shop Small’ campaign, something I’ve been a big fan of, which really says to people if you value those smaller businesses, the retailers, those that provide you choice, are responsive and nimble, and give you the customer service and variety that you want – well you need to put in some of your hard earned money into those businesses to keep that complexion in our economy.

American Express have been involved in the ‘Shop Small’ campaign and what they’re offering is 120 business development grants for small businesses that get involved with it and I encourage people to get behind those small businesses.

HOST:

Bruce as a Minister in the Abbott Government are you a little concerned about aligning yourself so closely and almost spruiking for a credit card company?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It’s interesting, I’ve had to ask myself what are we trying to achieve and who are we trying to please. To be frank with you, anyone who is prepared to get in and get behind the small business men and women of our country, I am more than happy to add my support to because it’s an important area of enterprise that we need to encourage.

Just last week I was double teaming, if I could put it that way, with the Institute of Public Accountants. Some years ago we were trying to have a ‘Celebrate Small Business Day’ to communicate that message to the broader public that smaller enterprises are crucial to our economic wellbeing. They create almost half of the livelihoods of people that are employed in the private sector and they deserve respect and support.

This program has been operating internationally, whether it was American Express or someone else, I suppose I am a bit agnostic about that, but the idea that we are getting that message out to the community that if you value, admire and want to see those small businesses continue to be an important part of our economy and community, you’ve got to get behind them. If someone is stepping up to share that message, I am happy to kick it along as well.

HOST:

Jeez don’t you go to all the big parties – the Public Accountants function…

MINISTER BILLSON:

Oh it was huge, I’ve got to say. It was funny, I spoke at a function and I am a Cabinet Minister in the Treasury portfolio and Treasury officials aren’t known for being an absolute riot with their jokes. But I was encouraged to be humourous in the speech I had to give and it was great to see the Treasury officials coming up with jokes about accountants.

HOST:

Nice but were they really jokes? Did any laugh?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well I’ve got a couple of them…

HOST:

No we don’t need them…Or maybe we do??? Come on Bruce, give us a gag.

MINISTER BILLSON:

There was one I didn’t use because there is that saying that economists are accountants with charisma and I thought that was a bit harsh…

HOST:

It doesn’t start ‘three accountants go into a bar or something’ does it?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well it’s not quite that bad but seeing Treasury officials coming up with jokes I thought was quite funny and their favourite one I think was ‘how do you know if your accountant has got charisma or is an extravert?’ The answer was they look at your feet rather than their own when they are talking to you. Now I thought that was a good one.

HOST:

That is funny. Okay

MINISTER BILLSON:

It is funny but I know a number of accountants that are riots and frankly they are trusted advisors. They are the go to people for so many of our businesses.

HOST:

Well in Western Australia of course Accountants wear white shoes. There is $600,000 in grants available, which will be made up of about 20x$5,000 grants for things like redesigning websites, purchasing equipment, refurbishing, improving premises, all that type of stuff but how do you apply? It says that you can win a grant so is it something that you apply for?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yeah it’s essentially for businesses that take American Express cards. So when people go in and make a purchase, getting involved in the program sees that transaction have the business recognised as part of the program and then they may be one of those fortunate businesses that get a $5,000 grant.

Talking with businesses that were involved with the program last year, they were very upbeat about it because that can be an important injection of cash into a business at a time when a business is looking to change some of their systems or maybe buy some new equipment. I know in Melbourne a business used that money to change an outdoor area into a coffee shop and that was warmly welcomed. I suppose the message that I want to convey to your listeners is that if you love these small businesses as I do, those family enterprises that add so much colour and option and economic energy then let’s get behind them because just liking them isn’t enough. You need to put some readies and hard earns into them to keep them ticking over.

HOST:

Just in closing Bruce, the good thing about that is when the BHP’s and the big banks go to Canberra, the Cabinet doors are thrown open to them, Ministers speak to them and they affect policy. The forgotten is the small businesses, the Mum and Dad businesses and this sort of initiative is a bit of a leg up for them I think.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Look and that’s my job. I’m there speaking on behalf of small businesses every day and let’s remember another thing. Over the last six years of the previous Government there were 519,000 jobs lost in small businesses across the country. Now because it’s one or two here and there, it’s not as visible as say a manufacturing plant shutting down but that’s an awful lot of livelihoods. We need to reenergise enterprise and I’m up for whatever we can do to support that objective.

HOST:

Yep look don’t get too excited Bruce.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I’m pumped.

HOST:

We haven’t forgotten that American Express are giving the money and it was the Government that wanted to give Holden and places like that, that aren’t even Australian companies, all of this money.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well there has been a bit of a change there and this is an important thing to get behind.

HOST:

Alright, thank you for your time.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Thank you gents.