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COSBOA dinner address

24 Jul 2013
 

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I'm delighted to be with you for tonight's dinner and to have had the opportunity to catch up with a great number of people today.

COSBOA has long been a very effective voice for small business in Government but also among the wider community.

I also want to recognise the contribution that NAB has made to the summit as its sponsor.

The opportunity to represent small business to the Government as Parliamentary Secretary was one that I jumped at.

I appreciate the satisfaction of independence and success that drives so many of you and admire the sweat and toil that goes into that success.

I am constantly reminded just how central small businesses are to local economies and important they are in a national context.

You will surely have heard this already today, but I want to point out again that there are more than two million businesses employing 4.8 million Australians and providing around 34 per cent of private industry value add.

I'm proud that the first national Small Business Minister was appointed during the Hawke Government and that we have given small business the first Cabinet voice in more than a decade.

It's also a matter of pride that we have appointed Mark Brennan as the first Australian Small Business Commissioner and an independent voice to Government on matters affecting small business.

You will note that all three of us have been participating in the events of today.

In that context then, thanks to delegates to the summit for their dedication to the small business cause.

Before I go on I want to add my hearty congratulations to Brad Krauskopf, the recipient of this year's COSBOA Small Business Champion award.

The concept of implementing good ideas through providing the structures and incubator environment for collaboration and support takes a bit of luck, combined with considerable effort.

I am delighted to hear of your successes and the work you are doing to foster innovation in the small and medium enterprise space.

I am always saying how important innovation is to maintaining our high standard of living. I think many people see innovation as something done by the major global companies, but often the real innovators are within small businesses. We should not forget or dismiss the importance of small businesses to the nation's growth.

I know you've covered a lot of ground today and there's more tomorrow.

I just want to reflect on where we are and then look at a few things in the small business space.

Our Government is realistic - there are both new economic challenges and opportunities ahead of us.

The global economy is experiencing a sluggish recovery and, as the Prime Minister has said, we are facing the end of the China resources boom.

We need to be smart about our response to these big challenges.

That's why we must work to make Australia more competitive. We must diversify our economy beyond the mining sector to ensure we don't have all our eggs in one basket.

We must continue nation building through projects like the NBN, creating the opportunity for new industries to emerge and enabling businesses - big and small - to flourish.

Despite the challenges, the Government is committed to ensuring that small business is able to prosper.

That means we need to deliver in areas like:

  • ensuring it has a level playing field in which to operate,
  • ensuring the regulatory burden is minimised, and
  • ensuring small business has appropriate support and advice.

We have been delivering for small business since 2007.

This morning I launched Building Success, a website highlighting some of the great stories of businesses that have used our support services.

The site at buildingsuccess.innovation.gov.au also contains useful information linking success with our programs.

I want to share a couple, both coincidentally from regional Australia.

In Devonport in Tasmania, local entrepreneur Colin Langman was helped by the local Business Enterprise Centre, a Small Business Advisory Program provider, to develop a good business plan to form the foundations of his car audio equipment retail business, Totally Awesome Sounds.

The assistance included advice on accounting and retailing that has led to strong business growth and the employment of additional staff.

The Small Business Advisory Services program has been overwhelmingly successful based on the feedback from the more than 212,000 clients who have accessed it.

That's why, in a climate of austerity, we provided $27.5 million to fund its provision for four years in the 2012-13 Budget.

We have also moved to support small businesses and local communities in areas affected by the terrible natural disasters in recent times.

For example, we are providing $2 million to 10 Small Business Advisory Service providers to help small businesses in Queensland deal with the impacts of ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald.

We've also provided direct assistance for small businesses affected by flooding in Queensland and New South Wales and by bush fires in Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

Any mention of the Australian Government's business support and advice would be incomplete without mentioning the Australian Government business information portal, business.gov.au.

It's a quick access source of comprehensive and searchable advice and information at the click of a button, any time of any day, from anywhere.

It is continually being updated and improved and so it's been extraordinarily popular, receiving over three million unique visits each month.

It's a one-stop shop where you can find information and tools from all levels of government about starting, running and growing a business in Australia.

business.gov.au also provides free Android and iPad apps to help you with business planning, marketing and emergency management.

The website's a great resource, regardless of what stage your business has reached.

Business planning based on the templates on business.gov.au helped with business decisions about expansions in Gladstone for Paint Place CQ.

Company director Brett Morrison and his personal assistant Sharon Moore explored the resources on the website and, not only did they use the business planning template, but they found advice on training.

Their case study on the Building Success website highlights the broad range of resources on business.gov.au with Brett Morrison saying it assisted the company to provide staff with good training about sales methods, and it was free.

This morning I had the pleasure of launching an updated version of the Small Business Resource Kit.

This is a development from business.gov.au in so far as it provides resources like the website's checklists and templates on a USB stick.

It's just had a major update with the latest information, statistics, guides and templates.

We have handed out more than 40,000 of these handy take-away kits and they will be available from the Innovation Department booth (numbers 6&7) when the summit display reopens tomorrow.

I know that Minister Gray dispelled some of the myths and mistruths being peddled about regulation this afternoon.

We are determined to press ahead with the COAG Agenda for a Seamless National Economy.

It's gratifying to know that over 305,000 businesses have benefited from our work with the State and Territory governments to fold business name registration into a single national system.

Not only does this save you time because it's an online process, but it also saves you money because a single payment registers a business name for up to three years.

It feeds into other online resources like ABN Lookup which allow you to check on the bona fides of other businesses, among other things.

And we are doing other work to streamline business reporting requirements through expanding the online Standard Business Reporting initiative to reduce reporting burdens and to remove overlaps in reporting obligations.

One of the initiatives which I consider a true winner is the Super Clearing House.

More than 42,000 small businesses have registered for this service that allows employers of 19 or less people to save time and money and meet their superannuation compliance requirements with a single payment.

The Small Business Superannuation Clearing House has now handled over a billion dollars in superannuation contributions.

This is a great initiative and one that I am interested in promoting whenever I get the chance. It is an example of a real reform which makes a real difference to small business owners.

Going back to innovation, I'd like to touch on the Australian Government's $1 billion Plan for Australian Jobs.

The Plan's Industry Innovation Precincts initiative will engage businesses of all sizes in key sectors and assist them to develop the connections to compete effectively in local and global markets.

We also have new initiatives in place, like the
$36 million National Centre for Asia Capability to deliver support for small and medium businesses to take up opportunities in Asian markets.

The centre will be based in Melbourne and Sydney and will deliver programs nationally.

It will draw existing resources together to better use their potential and will be a landmark partnership with industry to help develop Asia-relevant capabilities.

I also want to quickly visit activity in the small business space that is close to my heart.

My colleague Gary Gray and I have been working closely together on the outcomes of the Franchising Review set in motion early this year.

The franchising sector is of particular interest to me because I chaired the 2008 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services inquiry into franchising.

It's been a very worthwhile and well engaged process and I would like to add my thanks to the reviewer, Mr Alan Wein, for a very thorough job.

I was delighted that Minister Gray was able to announce this afternoon that we would be accepting the policy intent of Mr Wein's recommendations.

In particular, we are looking forward to introducing certainty into the requirement for franchisors and franchisees to act in good faith.

I am also pleased that we will give the ACCC additional enforcement strength by making pecuniary penalties and infringement notices available for breaches of the Code.

We have already consulted extensively, during Alan Wein's review process but also on the response to his recommendations.

The number of responses during the consultation on the recommendations, more than 160, was particularly gratifying and confirms the high level of interest and dedication among sector players to ensure that franchising operates under an appropriate regulatory regime.

Consultation with the industry will, of course, continue and we will continue to work to make certain we get the balance right on any measures that have a regulatory impact.

We know that cash flow is vital for small business survival and it is the Australian Government's priority to pay its bills to small business on time.

It's great to know that we are doing very well in this regard, as the 2011-12 Australian Government Payments to Small Business Performance Report showed.

The report found that the Government paid 96.8 per cent of its invoices from small business within 30 days.

And, payment performance by value of invoices improved, increasing from 89.2 per cent in 2010-11 to 94.4 per cent in 2011-12.

Steady cash flow is vital for small business survival and big businesses and other levels of government should do everything they can to pay their bills to small business on time.

What is really staggering is that business doesn't accord other business the courtesy of on time payments.

Research by Dun & Bradstreet shows that businesses locked away an astonishing $19 billion from other businesses beyond 30 days annually.

Indeed, Australia has a concerning history of consistently high late payments, with businesses currently taking an average of over 54 days to pay their bills to other businesses, often small businesses.

Compare this to New Zealand businesses that only take an average of 43 days to settle their trade accounts.

It's an enormous dilemma and we would like your assistance to tackle it with carrots, not a stick.

Tonight I am launching a discussion paper aimed at producing a Prompt Payment Protocol.

We're seeking your thoughts on a voluntary protocol that improves small business cash flow and strengthens business relationships.

The protocol aims to improve business-to-business late payments.

It is not just the timeliness of payment that is important but also the certainty of getting paid that will allow businesses to plan in the short and longer term.

Our discussion paper outlines a protocol that provides a flexible, non-regulatory framework for improving cash flow certainty and to foster a broad change in Australia's late payment culture.

It is modelled on an approach taken in the UK.

The protocol encourages all businesses to voluntarily sign up and publicly commit to upholding core principles that underpin good payment contracting practices and behaviours.

Some of these principles may include:

1. Paying on time according to the terms originally struck.

2. Communicating payment arrangements clearly in contracts.

3. Encouraging others to adopt the protocol and building good business relationships throughout supply chains.

4. Adopting a complaint resolution process to resolve payment issues quickly.

5. Identifying your business as a prompt payment leader.

We are suggesting that a central feature of the protocol could be a "Prompt Payer" logo to allow signatories to identify and promote themselves as business leaders with a commitment to prompt payment.

Preliminary work and industry feedback has indicated strong support for the concept.

You can look at the discussion paper on innovation.gov.au which also has information about how you can have your say.

It is time for Australia to work towards changing its late payment culture.

Together we can foster an environment to support business investment and growth across the economy.

I would be delighted to have your input by 23 August.

In closing, once again let me say thanks to COSBOA for the opportunity to speak at tonight's dinner.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience here today and working with and learning from small businesses across Australia in this portfolio.

As I said this morning to the forum attendees, please continue to share you ideas and thoughts with us. We are genuinely committed to resolving small business issues and helping you to become the small business that you want to be.

I hope tomorrow's symposium program is as informative as today's has been and I wish you well into the future.

Media Contacts: Parliamentary Secretary's office 02 6277 4934

 
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