Small business tax cuts; small business roadshow; payment times


JOURNALIST So Minister McCormack what brings you to Ulladulla this morning?

MCCORMACK Well Ann Sudmalis, who is very, very well aware of the importance of small business in this entire region, invited me to bring the Government organisations – the ACCC, the ATO and the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman – to this area to talk to small businesses about all the sorts of things that we’re doing in the space. Promoting jobs, promoting economic growth, making sure these small businesses have every opportunity to succeed. So this is a national small business roadshow, we’re taking it right around the nation. We’re on the South Coast today, next week we’re in Western Australia. We’ve been to Queensland, we’ve been to South Australia, we’ve been throughout regional New South Wales. I am the first Small Business Minister from a regional area. I am the Member for Riverina, but most importantly I’m also a former small business owner and operator. So like Ann, I understand just what it’s like to open your doors very early of a morning, to close them very late at night, then go home and do all the things that you do on a domestic situation and then get into the bookwork, get into the paperwork. So that’s why Ann and I as part of the Coalition Government have made sure that we’re simplifying GST reporting. From 1 July, BAS Statements are going to be more simplified. That’s why we’ve been absolutely adamant, Ann Sudmalis and I, to make sure that we get our 10 year Enterprise Tax plan through the Parliament. Just a few short weeks ago we got that lowering the company tax rate to 27.5 per cent. Also we are making more small businesses, particularly on the South Coast and right throughout the regions aware, but also eligible, for the instant asset write off, so they can buy capital equipment up to $20,000 and instantly write it off. Now Ann knows, because she’s run a very successful small business, as do I, that cash flow is king in a small business. That’s why it was really good to hear from the Ombudsman’s office this morning about the sort of work they’re doing with Unfair Contract Terms, payment times – that’s absolutely critical. It’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s not ethical, that big business is in some cases in Australia, and particularly in regional Australia, taking up to 120 days to pay their suppliers. Many of whom are farmers, many of whom are small producers. They need to be paid in fair and reasonable time – 30 day terms. So the ASBFEO office has been making an enquiry, they’ve been doing an absolute body of work to make sure that those times come down to what would be considered fair and reasonable: 30 days. We heard this morning about how our tax cuts have been welcomed. We heard this morning about the instant asset write off and how that’s been helpful. But more importantly, we listened to the small business owners around here. David Gregory has got a wonderful excursion app which enables teachers to take students on excursions and to be able to have real time medical updates on the phone. It’s part of the innovation that comes out of these regional areas. We know, Ann and I know, just how entrepreneurial and how driven these people are and it’s great to sit around the table and to hear the sorts of things from small business owners that shows their success stories, but also the way our Government has helped them by reducing compliance, by reducing paperwork, making sure that largely we get out of the way to be able to let them get on with what they do and what they do best, that is to succeed. That is to meet their tax obligations, but at the same time to have that innovation, that spark, that idea and to turn it into a great success and in many cases an export success.

JOURNALIST Yes, so given that the overwhelming majority of businesses in town are actually small businesses, what can you do for them in the next year?

MCCORMACK Well, we’re simplifying BAS. We’re reducing red tape. And I’ve put the call out to all small businesses – and I see the nods coming from the audience about how we’ve already cut their compliance. But I’ve asked for them to give us other examples where Federal legislation and paperwork and bureaucracy might be an impediment to them. To say to me, and through Ann and through other Coalition Members – ‘give us your examples where you think we can do even more work, even more good’. But at the same time, we’re also going to continue to lower the company tax rate, and that’s a boon. We know, Ann and I know because we’ve run small businesses, that if you get a little bit more money back from Government, back through a lowering of the company tax rates and other sorts of things – like the instant asset write offs – you don’t actually put the money in your pocket, you don’t take the holiday you probably need, want, expect or deserve – you actually reinvest it in your business, and when you reinvest it in your business you put on that apprentice. You put on the older Australian to help your business grow. That’s what small business owner and operators do, and they certainly do it around this area, it’s amazing some of the success stories coming out of here.

JOURNALIST So on that point with apprentices, we have one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country. What can you do to help small businesses get those youth employed and skilled with the skills with they need given that the TAFE in Ulladulla offers a very limited number of courses?

SUDMALIS So you know that TAFE is not the responsibility of the Federal government, that’s the responsibility of the State government. But I put a pitch out in January saying could we please get a minimum of 52 apprentices, not thinking that we would really reach that in a 3 month target. JOURNALIST So this is in Gilmore?

SUDMALIS This is in Gilmore and we ended up with 25 per cent more apprentices than came on board at the same period last year and we got almost 400 apprentices. We got 392 apprentices signed up in that 3 month period just by encouraging employers to take on trainees and apprentices. It’s raising awareness, it’s having the apprenticeship support network and that helps them to negotiate the paperwork for apprenticeships. You can’t create jobs but you can certainly help businesses to take on the responsibility of employing young people, and that was a very, very successful move. JOURNALIST And I assume that most of them are employed by small businesses?

SUDMALIS Yes they are, most of those are small businesses. There are some that are also employed by Council. But we had one …. he took on a landscaping apprentice. But you know what a lot of the old tradies said I want to retire soon, there’s nobody to take on my trade, I am pretty good at what I do I want to actually share that skill with the new person and there’s been a bit of reluctance up until now. This year we blitzed it with 392 apprentices signed up by the end of March was a really great initiative.

JOURNALIST Is this something you will be looking to continue?

SUDMALIS Oh yes next year we will do it again. But it’s also when you’ve got somebody, and one of the bosses said having the support network there to take care of all of the paperwork was what made the difference for them to actually take on an apprentice. Because frankly small businesses don’t have time to fiddle around with paperwork, they’re done with that. So if you have someone in the middle to take care of that for you, that actually helps get people into work.

MCCORMACK And while we’re on that, a lot of small businesses don’t have time to have to actually engage. It’s expensive to go into the marketplace and look for workers, it’s actually onerous to then conduct job interviews when many of the job seekers are actually doing it just to tick boxes and so this month, just in April we’ve started a new program called Prepare, Trial and Hire programme – PaTH. And what that does it gives long term unemployed, under 25 years of age job seekers the ability to get job ready and get out into the workforce and get real life on the job experience. In a real factory, in a real plant, in a real small business. They get $200 a fortnight, they don’t lose their income support, they don’t lose their welfare benefits. But for an employer who takes someone on as part of 12 week program they get $1000 but if they then take that person on full time and keep them on they get a $10,000 subsidy. So during the program, during the actual 12 weeks, if it doesn’t work out there is no obligation on the employer to keep that person on, just like there is no obligation for the young person to continue to work for them, but in many cases we’re hoping is that it is going to work out and it’s going to be a pathway to a full time job. The best form of welfare is work, and our Government acknowledges the fact that there are jobs available, and we want to link up those employers and those prospective employees as part of the PaTH program which the Employment Minister, Senator Michaela Cash, is really driving at the moment and it’s a fantastic program and it will be great around here.

SUDMALIS And you know what it’s done for a lot of people? The fear factor is if they go for a job and it doesn’t work out, they have to through all the process of going back to Centrelink and get back on the books. In this program they don’t. They’re still on income support during this period. They get $200 in addition from the support from the Government and it’s kind of like a safety net for them. Well I can try this, but if it doesn’t quite work then I’m going to be ok. That, for a lot of people who have never had a job before, its quite intimidating to have a crack at a first job so we recognise that and we know that that’s a problem, we’ve got a lot of people who are third generation unemployed. So for them there’s no knowledge, there’s no experience and no knowledge about without losing all that potential benefit.

JOURNALIST But to that employment and small business link, what do you think about people thinking they don’t have that encouragement to work on weekends because of the penalty rate cuts? Given that our area relies on small business to be open on the weekend because it’s all we’ve got, what do you say to that?

SUDMALIS Well the penalty rate cuts didn’t apply to most of the industry that’s in Ulladulla. We’ve got more opportunity now for small businesses to open their doors now. Which they’re not currently doing in other areas. It’s an opportunity to get more working hours for existing staff members.

JOURNALIST But do you think that businesses can staff them on Saturdays and Sundays without having the incentive of workers getting paid more to give away their weekends?

SUDMALIS It depends on their award. You can’t generalise across it, it depends on what award they’re under.

MCCORMACK Peter Strong from the Council of Small Business Australia believes that this will create – across the nation – 10,000 jobs. And that’s what we need, we need people in work, we need people to be filling the jobs, we need doors of cafes and retail shops to be open, and to be open when people want to shop at them. This will, according to Peter Strong, according to Stephen Cartwright of the NSW Business Chamber, this will create work, this will create opportunities, this may well give that young person their first start at a job. JOURNALIST No worries, is there anything else you guys like to add?

MCCORMACK Ann Sudmalis is doing a fantastic job for this region, she is.

SUDMALIS I’m glad the Minister’s here.

MCCORMACK And she is doing a fantastic job. She is somebody, we have a lot of Members of Parliament who make a big noise in their local seats but when they go to Canberra you don’t hear from them. They get involved in the politicking etc., but Ann is someone who fiercely, fiercely represents her local region, she doesn’t mind rattling cages you know when need be. She doesn’t mind banging on the doors of Minister’s offices and demanding things that she needs for Gilmore, and that is fantastic. I am honoured to sit in Parliament with her and I think she is doing a wonderful job.

JOURNALIST And what has she demanded from you?

MCCORMACK She has been on board with this Ten Year Enterprise Tax Plan. She told me so many times how important this tax cut is for Gilmore region, for the wider South Coast area. She is a regional Member of Parliament, so she understands the important nexus between city and country. She understands that there are many people around here who can take advantage of the free trade agreements we’ve been able to broker as a Coalition Government with China, with South Korea, with Japan. I know Steve Ciobo is getting on board with talking to even more nations to arrange more trade arrangements and these are critical for these regional areas. But also making sure the links are there, between the farmers and between the small businesses, so they can get on board, they can get the capital, they can get the finance and the pathways for them to take advantage of these arrangements. And so I know her office works very closely with small business, it’s a critical part of everything she does and I am just glad to be here in the electorate today and share those views with many of the small business owners who have come to our forums.

JOURNALIST And what’s on your agenda for the rest of the day? You guys travelling anywhere else in Gilmore?

SUDMALIS Yes, we’re going to some of the industrial businesses in the industrial estate and then we’re going into town to talk with retailers and then down to Batemans Bay – where we’re going to do something similar, to get the message out there. To tell people about the benefits that we have put in place for small business and while a lot of people say we haven’t got a lot of small businesses, we have a company, a lot of them are actually companies and whilst it might only look like there are five people working there, they have a company structure. This message is very very relevant to them, so we need to get that message out there and make sure they know what’s going on and that they know what’s available to them. It’s very important that we have the relevant Government representatives. It has been very, very fruitful here and while the public perception is that they’re useless and they’re not doing anything, in fact it’s actually the opposite and they’re making some very positive changes. And I think that the electronic BAS is brilliant. The one-stop-shop.

JOURNALIST I know that my Mum has a small business and every year she is pulling her hair out with these BAS statements.

SUDMALIS And that message has come in loud and clear – fix that up – and we’ve fixed that. So from 1 July, they’ll be able to do that electronically.

MCCORMACK GST on sales. GST on purchase of total sales. So instead of seven areas, it’s now only three they need to fill out. So that’s simplifying it, but that’s cutting across all areas we’re actually looking at, reducing compliance.

JOURNALIST Has there been anyone here this morning that didn’t know about some of the things you’ve spoken about?

MCCORMACK There’s a lot of people at these forums, in an open, clear environment and it’s more of a listening tour rather than a telling tour, but we’ve got a great message to tell and sell as a Government for small business. Getting feedback from small businesses, and taking this back to Canberra and formulating better policy. That’s what it’s all about.

SUDMALIS It’s also about connecting people, look at David Gregory and his app. This could be used in a number of ways, and it could be used in aged care facilities and to help disability enterprises, so they know what’s going on. His eyes have been opened up to the different opportunities available to him and connected him up with different Government Departments. It’s another way of getting our message out to local people and it’s our job to help open these doors for people.


Cristy Houghton