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2GB Breakfast Show with Alan Jones

11 March 2020

Interviewer: 
Alan Jones

Subject: Small business bushfire recovery response, small business bushfire recovery grants, national skills ambassador appointment

E&OE

ALAN JONES: Well, there you are. Now we had Damien Tudehope, the New South Wales Small Business Minister in the studio on Monday. He said the criteria were too complex and only 25 per cent of businesses that had applied for the $50,000 grants had been paid – the rest were in limbo. Under the rules of the scheme, only businesses with direct fire damage – that's how dumb it is – were eligible for $50,000. Now if you've been hit by smoke or ash, you get no money. And nothing for those who in bushfire-hit towns who weren't damaged but have lost all their foot traffic. The Kings Highway to Canberra, if you look at the South Coast where I've been many times, the Kings Highway to Canberra was closed for five weeks for God's sake. And the Princes Highway similarly – no-one coming in, no-one going out. And these people are struggling. Our job is to keep business in business. Anyway, Michaelia Cash is the kind of person you want. She's the Federal Minister for Small Business and she's listened, she's responded, and she's currently, I think, on her way to the South Coast where she's going to announce some changes that will make it easier for these businesses to stay in business. She's on the line. Michaelia, Good morning.

MINISTER CASH: Good morning, Alan, and good morning to your listeners.

ALAN JONES: Firstly, you're amazing. Now you've simplified these $50,000 grants.

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. Look, I just want to back up what you're opening comments were. The Prime Minister, other ministers, and I have been very, very clear to the public service – can you get the relief and support to those families and businesses that need it because they need it right now. Let’s err on the side of giving the money out. The Prime Minister’s been very, very up front. We’ve repackaged the small business program for obvious reasons, and I'm very pleased. As you said, I’m heading to the South Coast right now to announce that we now have grants – $10,000 – to assist small businesses with the cost of maintaining their businesses. And this is now going to include covering salaries and wages. We need to get this money to …

ALAN JONES: But you're not going to announce,  Michaelia, you're not going to ask them though are you to produce a whole heap of paperwork, I mean …

MINISTER CASH: No. Absolutely not. No. No. This is half the problem, Alan, too much paperwork. And you're right, in relation to the loans of up to $50,000 it was too complex, the Prime Minister acknowledged that. Albeit it is administered by states and the good news is that the requirements for security to be provided for loans of up to $50,000, it has been removed. That is a huge hurdle.

ALAN JONES: Quite.

MINISTER CASH: We received the feedback and we have now got rid of it.

ALAN JONES: Well, thank you for talking to Andrew. I spoke to Michaelia and to Andrew Constance, and Michaelia spoke to Andrew Constance who was just in a state of despair over this.

MINISTER CASH: He was. And Alan just so you know, I spoke to him again at length last night. Like you, I have been speaking to him on a regular basis and he also is delighted with these changes, but in particular, the $10,000 grant for small business who might just need to pay wages.

ALAN JONES: Yeah so then Michaelia, what he made the very valid point was – and I'm sure you'd agree with this – that there's a complete breakdown in trust. I mean, the perception is that everyone out there is dishonest and they're going to rip the government off. Now the most probably in every world will be 2 and 3 per cent dishonest, we shouldn't be penalising the 97 per cent who are honest. If there's going to be a bit of a fallout, 3 per cent, forget it. Let's see if we can keep business in business.

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. Alan small businesses – you and I know, lifeblood, local communities – our commitment to them is to keep you open and to keep you employing your employees and that is why we are making these changes in recognition of the fact that the money hasn't quite got where we need to go. We’ve listened, we’ve learned, we’re working with the states but I’m just delighted with the $10,000 grant because I think that is going to make a very, very big difference to those small businesses who need to cover salaries and wages.

ALAN JONES: Yes. We've got to keep business in business and people in jobs at work. Can I just ask you to listen to this? This is Sam – I mean I've got a stack of these Michaelia – this is Sam who called earlier.

CALLER (SAM): I am out there every single day, Alan, and I've talked to people on a day-to-day basis. People, they are struggling, small business are struggling and we are in a small business recession – make no mistake about this. And we’re still paying tax left, right and centre. We pay tax every time you blink – tax for the payroll, tax for the tax, tax – everything that you blink on you pay tax. And you know what, Alan? The last thing the government ever, ever decided to do – nothing in relation to those small business.

ALAN JONES: See Michaelia, I'm just wondering if you can't consider, for example, the business activity statement, the GST remissions, the payroll tax? I mean, we're wanting to keep people in work but the costs of being in business are so very, very high and until this coronavirus, and the bushfire, and the drought – they’ve all come together – and I just think we've got to say you're managing taxpayer’s money, we want that money to be going to people who need it. The other thing Michaelia, is where the hell is all this money The public has given over- nearly $1 billion to assist these people. Where the hell is this money?

MINISTER CASH: And they have, and I know that the Prime Minister has been working very closely with relevant ministers to ensure that we are able to get that money out. Just on Sam though, because I mean Sam makes some very good points. I personally believe payroll tax, Alan, is a tax on employment.

ALAN JONES: It is.

MINISTER CASH: And I would say to any state government out there, because, as you know, it’s a state government tax, can you think about doing something in the near future to ensure that businesses in your relevant state or territory are able to continue to employ. Because this is something where, as the Prime Minister said, that country now needs to come together.

ALAN JONES: Correct.

MINISTER CASH: Can I also say though, and give a very, very clear message to big businesses out there, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, go back to your payroll department today and instruct them to pay all outstanding invoices to small businesses. If you want to get cash into the economy that is something that big businesses in Australia, they have the capacity to do it, they can give the instruction and they can pay their small business today.

ALAN JONES: Quite. Now Michaelia, the biggest business in the country is Government. Are Government paying their invoices on time?

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. Alan, there’s nothing worse than a Government that doesn't lead by example and we are absolutely leading by example. We now pay invoices of up to $1 million within a maximum of 20 days and if we don’t, we pay interest. If you e-invoice us – and this is why e-invoicing, Alan, is so important – if you e-invoice us, it is five days or less. And guess what? Again, we pay interest if we don’t. We've also got, obviously, setting up the payment times reporting framework for big businesses. And of next year, big businesses in Australia will have to disclose exactly how they are paying their small business suppliers and if they want to do business with the Government, guess what, they are going to have to pay their suppliers within 20 days. No. No more excuses, Alan. No more excuses.

ALAN JONES: Well, done. Okay. Well, no, no more. One more quick thing before you go, this fella Scott Cam on $350,000 or something of taxpayers’ money, meant to be an ambassador, spruik trades and TAFE and so on – so far he's put four posts on social media. The public are pretty angry that this is taxpayers’ money. A lot of dough when people out there can't even get 50,000 a year, this bloke’s got 350,000 of our money.

MINISTER CASH: And as you and I know, Scott Cam’s Australia's most well-known tradie – that is the value of his contract, that is the value of his brand. I personally can think of no-one better than to highlight the fantastic opportunities, you know, vocational education offers..

ALAN JONES: But has he done that yet?

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. No, absolutely Alan. It’s a range of activities and media appearances are but part of that. We kicked off our national tour yesterday, he's been instrumental in drawing people into the National Careers Institute. Most people wouldn’t know what that is, we set it up last year. We are now utilising that Scott Cam brand, the most well-known Australian tradie, to really highlight the value of vocational education. You should get him on your show if you could because, you know, you look at his story – he left school at 17, undertook a trade, went on to become a small business owner, knows the pain that a small business person goes through every day when it comes to employing people. And then went on to become one of the most well-known, household names and why? Because he undertook a vocational education.

ALAN JONES: Good on you. Good on you. Well explained. God, you're a star. You're a star. Now don’t, you go down there, don't you swear too much today by the way.

MINISTER CASH: I won’t I promise and next time I’m coming into the Studio.

ALAN JONES: I mean youth, they're looking to you and you're all done up so they'll be looking to see you, looking forward to seeing you.

MINISTER CASH: Good on you.

ALAN JONES: Righto. There she is, Michaelia Cash. Don't we need a few like her? There’s some good people around, she's one of them. And this is why I want you to ring here, if you've got a problem with your business staying in business, get in touch with me if you can't get in touch with anyone else and I'll feed it through and we'll see that someone comes to try to assist you.

ENDS