Speech to the 2014 Bundaberg Business Expo

Thursday, 22 May 2014



The Honourable Bruce Billson MP – Minister for Small Business;

The Honourable Jack Dempsey, Member for Bundaberg and Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services sends his apologies;

Mr Stephen Bennett MP – Member for Burnett;

Mayor Mal Forman and Councillors;

Wide Bay Australia Business Banking Manager Mark Moller, sponsors, ladies and gentlemen


It’s great to be here to speak to you all today; some of you for the first time since I was elected to the seat of Hinkler.

It’s been a very productive eight months. 

We’ve wasted no time getting on with the job we were elected to do. And a key part of that job was to get the Budget back under control.

Earlier this month, the Coalition Government released its first Budget, laying a foundation to strengthen and build the economy by reducing projected debt by almost $300 Billion over the next decade.

Every month, the Government currently spends $1 Billion paying the interest on Labor’s debt.

Governments, like households and businesses, must live within their means.

Business people know better than most that if you’re going to borrow money to expand your operation or invest in capital, you need a plan to pay the money back.

When you start borrowing money to pay staff and keep the lights on you’re in real trouble. Likewise, it is ill advised to spend money on luxuries you can’t afford. But that’s exactly what Labor did.

Tackling Australia’s debt problem will require everyone to play a part and contribute.

For example, Australians earning over $180,000 a year will be required to pay a Temporary Budget Repair Levy and we’ve reintroduce indexation on the fuel excise. 

But the Budget contains plenty of good news too!

The Diesel Fuel Rebate has been retained. The rebate will be indexed at the same rate as the fuel excise, meaning there will be no net increase in the cost of diesel for those who receive the rebate.

The reintroduction of indexation on the fuel excise will add less than 1 cent per litre to the cost of fuel. That’s about $24 per year for someone who uses 50 litres of fuel per week.

Money raised from the indexation of the fuel excise will be spent on roads, bring the Government’s infrastructure Budget to a record $50 Billion.     

The Coalition understands that well-planned infrastructure, delivered in a timely manner, is vital to helping all of you get your products to market. It also facilitates service delivery to regional Australia and provides long-term employment, and opportunities for training and development. 

That’s why $13.4 Billion will be spent in Queensland, including $6.7 Billion on the ailing Bruce Highway. 

We’re delivering a $1 Billion National Stronger Regions Fund. Councils and community groups will be able to apply for grants for capital works projects that will regenerate communities with high unemployment.

There’s $300 Million nationally for the new Bridges Renewal Programme, and $100 Million to address mobile telephone phone Black Spots.

As a former business owner, I understand that infrastructure is not the only hurdle regional businesses have to overcome. Here in Australia, regulation is high, input costs are high, labour costs are high, the Australian dollar is high and profits are low. We’re working to change that.

We’re cutting the company tax rate by 1.5 per cent to help around 800-thousand businesses.  

Repealing the Carbon Tax will help business flourish. Electricity costs incurred through irrigation and refrigerant gases, for example, skyrocketed with the introduction of the tax.

We’re also cutting red and green tape to save businesses time and money, which will lift productivity and boost economic growth. If there is a piece of Federal legislation you think needs to be reviewed, please email your suggestions to my office.

Building on the Free Trade Agreements we recently signed with South Korea and Japan, the Government will provide $15 million to help small exporters. There’s $9 million to support our recreational and commercial fishing bodies, $100 Million extra for agricultural research and development and $20 Million to build a stronger biosecurity and quarantine system.

As a result of the State and Federal Coalition’s pro-business policies, consumer confidence is on the rise.  Earlier this month, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released data, showing retail spending in Queensland rose 0.2 per cent in March to be 5 per cent higher over the year.

That’s the eighth consecutive monthly increase in retail spending in Queensland.

Let me tell you why we are trying to make it easier, not harder, for you to do business in Australia. It is business that grows our economy. It is business that creates jobs.

Small business is the backbone of regional Australia. They employ 50 per cent of all Australians working in the private sector.

And I don’t need to tell you that jobs are sorely needed in Hinkler. Unemployment is our single biggest issue.  Unemployment and financial hardship are often contributing factors in cases of marital break down, domestic violence, criminal activity, poor nutrition, health problems, and declining school attendance.

The greatest thing we can do to help communities like Hinkler prosper is provide Australians with opportunity. Opportunity for education. Opportunity for training. Opportunity for employment.

Employment gives people the ability to pay their own way and provide for their families. The people of this great nation should be able to depend on their elected representatives, but that does not mean we should be building a nation of dependence.

Under the Rudd and Gillard Governments, unemployment in the Hinkler electorate increased from 6 per cent in the September 2007 quarter to 9.6 per cent in the June 2013 quarter. That’s compared to an unemployment rate of 5.4 per cent for the nation or 6 per cent in Queensland.

As promised, we’re revitalising the Work for the Dole program to give people routine, structure, presentation skills and access to potential employers. Young people will now be required to earn, learn or work for the dole. 

We are fortunate to live in a country where the Government provides a safety net to those who find themselves without employment. Requiring Australians to work for the dole ensures that the obligation is mutual.

Those undertaking an apprenticeship will, for the first time, be able to apply for concessional loans of up to $20,000 in a scheme similar to HECS.

Students with low socio-economic backgrounds or from regional areas will have access to a new Commonwealth scholarships scheme.   

Financial incentives will be provided to employers and employees to get young people and seniors into the workforce.

Long term unemployed Hinkler residents, aged between 18 to 30, will receive $2500 if they hold a job for a continuous period of 12 months, and a further bonus of $4000 when they attain 24 months of service.

Hinkler employers will receive up to $10,000 when they hire a job seeker over the age of 50. That payment is particularly important in an aging electorate like Hinkler.

The median age in Hinkler is 44, compared to 37 for Queensland. Almost 3000 residents are over the age of 85, making it the largest single age group in the electorate.

For all the entrepreneurs in the audience, aged care is a sector that presents enormous opportunity. As the local population ages and more retirees move to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay to enjoy the lifestyle, the demand for in-the-home care, retirement villages and nursing homes is going to increase. In constructing these facilities and developing new innovative models for service delivery, we will be creating jobs for future generations. The business opportunities and economic benefits, both direct and indirect, should not be underestimated.  

During Senate estimates in 2010, the Department of Health and Ageing indicated there were 429 aged-care beds across the Wide Bay region that were funded but not built by providers. By 30 June last year, under Labor that figure had blown out to 730. So the money is there, we just need organisations to build them.

One of the negative aspects of having an aging population is that our workforce is losing critical skills. Sadly, one of Hinkler’s great exports is its young talent.

If we are to hold on to our young people, we need to provide new opportunities: real jobs with real outcomes. We need to give our young people the incentive to undertake a trade. We need to give them a reason to return once they have finished their university studies in the big smoke. 

That’s where you come in. My challenge to you is to create that opportunity. We will do everything we can to get out of your way, to let you get on with doing what you do best, and that is running your business. We will work with our State and Local colleagues to create a business environment that gives you the confidence to expand. We just need you to create opportunities.

Speaking of opportunities, I’d like to congratulate Peter Peterson and the Bundaberg Business Enterprise Centre on putting together this fantastic and long overdue event. If the turn out here today is any indication, I’m sure it will be a huge success.

I’d also like to congratulate our local bank, Wide Bay Australia, for launching business banking.

In conclusion…. 

In the past eight months, six Federal Ministers, three Parliamentary Secretaries, and four Coalition Senators have visited the Hinkler electorate to hear about the issues impacting local residents and businesses. And now, today, we are very fortunate to have the Federal Minister for Small Business, the Honourable Bruce Billson here to officially open the Expo.   

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is certainly keeping his promise to lead a Government that consults.

Gone is the instable Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government that, in a period of just three years, gave us two Prime Ministers, two Treasurers, five assistant treasurers, and six small business ministers.

I’m proud of what we’ve achieved to date. I will continue to work hard for the people of Hinkler, to build the stronger, more prosperous country that we all want.

I’ll now hand over to Minister Billson to carry out the official proceedings.

Thank you.


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