SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

Minister for Finance and Deregulation

BRENDAN O'CONNOR MP

Minister for Housing

Minister for Homelessness

Minister for Small Business

TRANSCRIPT

10 July 2012

JOINT DOORSTOP – IPSWICH

TOPICS: CARBON PRICE, CHANGES TO GOVERNMENT PAYMENTS, GREENS PARTY PREFERENCES

E&OE - PROOF ONLY

WONG: It’s great to be here today in Ipswich with Brendan O’Connor talking to small businesses, talking to people about what’s going on in their businesses and what’s going on in the local community.

And I’m here with Brendan today to make an announcement that is about the Government understanding that small business needs its cash flow. What we’re doing today is making this announcement which is about Government doing even better when it comes to paying small business on time.

The change we’ve made is to make sure that if Government doesn’t pay small business within the thirty days, what we’ll do is automatically pay them interest for the amount that we owe them. Now what we hope will happen is that we won’t have to pay them interest. We hope what will happen is that we’ll get agencies paying small business within the timeframe, because we understand what is one of the most important things that many of these mums and dads who run small businesses need, is their cashflow on time.

Government already does a pretty good job – we’re at nearly 98 percent on time payment. But even that’s not good enough, and we want to do even better. And that’s what today’s announcement is about. Over to you, Brendan.

O’CONNOR: Can I thank Penny, the Finance Minister, for coming up with a very good initiative that’s sensitive to the cash flow problems for small business. This is about Government agencies making sure that they provide payments to small business when there are contractual arrangements. This is about making sure they’re paid on time or as soon as possible. And, as Penny said, this is about ensuring that agencies are sensitive to the needs of cash flow challenges for small business and this initiative will certainly help in that regard.

That’s on top of a very recent announcement by the Gillard Government to improve cash flow by introducing the instant asset tax write-off, which not only provides cash flow, but also reduces depreciation schedules. So the combination of efforts by the Government – and this one particularly today, I think – is going to provide good opportunities for small business to get the money that they are of course expecting to be getting from the Federal Government on time. And it’s a very good effort.

JOURNALIST: What does small business say to you about the carbon tax and the impact that’s having on their business?

WONG: Interestingly that hasn’t come up today as much as you might think, given the media focus. And I think what’s important to remember is that small business isn’t directly paying the carbon tax.

The people who are paying the price on carbon are the largest polluters. Now, obviously, some of that does flow through. But, as you know, we’ve put in place a very substantial assistance package to reflect the price increases. And of course the price increases are nothing like the price increases that Tony Abbott is talking about. We’re talking about 0.7 per cent of an impact on what we call the Consumer Price Index.

So Mr Abbott’s scaremongering really is being shown to be nothing more than just that – scaremongering.

JOURNALIST: Why has Labor suddenly begun attacking the Greens over the past few days?

WONG: I think you’d have to ask some of the people engaged in the debate. But we’re the Labor Party and we stand for Labor values. And we stand for the things that we do to build a stronger economy and a fairer society. Things like making sure that we continue to generate jobs, things like making sure we’ve come through the Global Financial Crisis in better shape than almost any other advanced economy, things like rolling out the National Broadband Network and making sure we’ve got a strong health system. All of these are the things that Labor is doing and will continue to do.

JOURNALIST: But there is a debate at the moment, there is some friction. So where should the Greens be preferenced? Where do you think they should be preferenced?

WONG: These are matters that have always been decided in elections by the organisational wing of the Party, and I’m sure they will be again.

JOURNALIST: Do either of you think they have extremist policies?

WONG: I made a speech last night where the point I made was less about those policies and more about the importance of making sure you get a practical outcome. And I’ve been very clear that, at times, I think it would have been better for the Greens to work for a practical outcome, rather than to get no outcome which hasn’t benefited the country. But they can speak for their own choices.

O’CONNOR: In relation to business, one of the reasons why we weren’t able to get the company tax cut the way we envisaged was because the Greens chose to oppose the company tax rate upon larger businesses. And of course Tony Abbott combined with the Greens to oppose the company tax cut altogether. I think that was a bad decision and there are times where the Greens have been lining up with Tony Abbott in relation to company tax cuts, in relation to offshore processing.

That doesn’t really do them any good at all and I think they need to reflect on the way they decide to make decisions in Parliament. And they also have to think more deeply about the policies they enunciate. Because in the end they have to work in the real world. And I think sometimes, yes, they do on occasion have policies that are motivated by populism rather than realistic, practical outcomes.

WONG: Thank you.

O’CONNOR: Thanks.

ENDS