SUBJECT/S: New Jobs Tax Cut, Small business, Newspoll, Medicare

KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: This is AM Agenda, with me now, the Shadow Small Business Minister, Michelle Rowland. You’ve heard what the Government has to say, the Finance Minister says if you really want to help small business, give them a tax cut, not this other measure which only goes to companies with a turnover up to $2 million.

MICHELLE ROWLAND: Labor’s always said we’re very happy to support a tax cut for small business, and in fact in last year’s budget reply, Bill Shorten challenged the government to come to a bipartisan approach on that, so we certainly welcome it. But the other thing that we want to ensure, Kieran, is that we marry up these two issues of small businesses who are major employers in Australia, in fact employing nearly half of all workers in Australia, and also we know that there are some groups of people who are quite vulnerable, who are less than 25 or over 55, or have come back to the workforce after a time away, and they have a lot of trouble getting into the workforce. So what we’re proposing to do is give an incentive for small businesses through a tax offset on their wages of these new employees and removing some of that red tape that currently exists for existing programs such as wage subsidies .

GILBERT: Those in the area have said to me that this policy looks more like a policy for employees and unions, as opposed to what small businesses and what they need.

ROWLAND: Well that’s not what I’ve heard from small businesses and as I’ve gone around to individual businesses right around Australia, they are saying they would like to employ more people, but they need some incentives to do that. Now, giving a tax cut in some cases is not going to provide that, what they need is this greater incentive of deductibility that goes further than what we currently have in the present programs, and we’re proposing to fund this out of existing programs, and we are also proposing to monitor it carefully so that we have the correct targeting and that also we achieve the desired results, because quite frankly under existing wage subsidy schemes, it’s not happening.

GILBERT: But you’re focusing on micro businesses to a large extent, under $2 million. Up to $10 million is really the definition these days, isn’t it for a small business, because we’re talking turnover not profit?

ROWLAND: Well the vast majority of small businesses are in fact $2 million or under, and we want to make sure that they have the greatest assistance.

GILBERT: But you need employees, have they got the capacity to employ?

ROWLAND: Well what they have said to us is if they are given the right incentives then yes, they will employ. So we have taken that directly on board, and we have proposed this scheme, which we believe has been well designed to cater to not only the needs of small businesses, but also the need to employ more people, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

GILBERT: And the Newspoll, much hope, with less than two weeks to go, does this give you a bit of confidence?

ROWLAND: Well, we always knew that this race was going to be tight, Kieran. But even as we saw yesterday at Labor’s campaign launch, we have been out there articulating policies, formulating them having consulted with the wider community and listening to people, we’ve done that since we went in opposition, and contrary to a lot of oppositions who don’t put their policies out there and choose to be small targets. You know exactly what you’re going to get under a Labor government. So we have not been afraid to formulate these policies, to put them out there, and underpinning all of them is our ethos of equality of opportunity, in regards to healthcare, education…

GILBERT: But why then is Labor resorting to a scare campaign on Medicare?

ROWLAND: It’s not a scare campaign, it’s a real campaign. This is a real issue because let’s think about it: Malcolm Turnbull has set up a task force to look at privatisation. He’s got PWC looking at it, he’s got a scoping study.

GILBERT: But he’s ruled it out.

ROWLAND: You know what ruling it out reminds me of exactly, Kieran? This reminds me of the 2013 election when the Government, at that time the Opposition, knew that it was wrong on Gonski funding, knew that it had the wrong policies in this area, and then came out and said ‘unity ticket’, doesn’t matter who you vote for, you’re going to get the same amount of money under the Liberals or under Labor, and that proved to be an absolute lie. And that is exactly what is happening here because the Prime Minister is under pressure, he knows he’s on a loser, he knows he’s committed to not only privatisation but dismantling Medicare and he knows that he has to do something about it. It’s repeating itself all over again.

GILBERT: Michelle Rowland, thanks for your time.