ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR FINANCE, MEMBER FOR BANKS, THE HON. DAVID COLEMAN MP:
Good morning and welcome to Padstow, here in the Banks electorate and to VBP Interiors, a fantastic business here in Padstow, employing 30 people in the shop-fitting industry and a great success story, this has been here for some 12 years. Really, a great example of the sort of small and medium sized businesses that are benefiting already from the government's tax policy. I would certainly like to thank Oliver vom Bruch, the owner and manager of VBP for having us today. Tremendous to have the Prime Minister here to visit the facility.
Well thanks David and yes, thank you Oliver. Good on you, here he is. Oliver started this business in 2006?
OLIVER VOM BRUCH, DIRECTOR, VBP INTERIORS:
That’s correct, yes.
And did not have one customer. But what he had was great optimism and confidence, a determination to get ahead. He built this business with his team. It's a family owned business and Oliver has grown this business by investing the retained earnings from the business.
This is how family businesses in Australia grow, particularly small and medium-sized businesses like this.
So that's why our company tax cuts have been so important, because this means that Oliver’s company and so many thousands, hundreds of thousands of others like it, can keep more of the money they earn which they then plough back into the business. That means you're getting new gear, new premises, it enables you to grow and you can hire more employees.
Of course, in addition to that, our personal income tax relief -which starts now at the beginning of the financial year - means that Oliver’s employees will keep more of the money they earn. They will benefit from this tax relief and that of course means more incentive for them. More of the money they’ve earned is kept in their pockets and again it is supporting hard-working Australians.
Now, all of that is put at risk by Bill Shorten.
Bill Shorten has attempted to persuade, is trying to persuade people that he's not against businesses, small and medium businesses. Well, we know he is. He did his extraordinary backflip and belly-flop last week on company tax. The fact is, despite what Tanya Plibersek was trying to say yesterday in Tasmania, under Labor, businesses like this will pay more tax.
They’ll pay more tax under Labor. They’re on 27.5 per cent now, coming down to 25 per cent. Labor wants to freeze them now at 27 and a half per cent.
So they will pay more tax under Labor, despite what Labor says.
And of course, employees here will pay more tax under Labor.
Labor does not have a plan for income tax reform. We do. Our plan goes from the $530 tax offset in this financial year, it goes through over six years to an outcome where you will have only 32.5 cents marginal tax on income between $41,000 and $200,000. That is going to lower taxes right across the board for people who are on middle incomes in Australia, including the employees here at VBP.
So this is where we're seeing the strong economic growth in Australia.
This is why we have the funds to support essential services. It’s why we can put life-saving drugs on the PBS. It’s why we can have record investments in roads, in infrastructure, in health, in hospitals and in schools, because we have a stronger economy.
Last year we had the largest jobs growth in Australia's history.
Right now we have the lowest percentage of working-aged Australians on welfare in 25 years.
All of that means a stronger economy, stronger revenues for government. It means we can lower taxes so that hard-working Australian families can keep more of the money they earn. It means we can invest more into the essential services we need and it means we can bring the Budget back into balance a year earlier, so government is not living beyond its means. We’ve turned a corner on debt.
So this is what a strong economy delivers. Oliver I want to thank you and all your team. Because it’s your enterprise - it really is, all of you, every single one of you - it’s your enterprise and your confidence, and that of millions of Australians like you, that is delivering the stronger economic growth we need and enabling the Government to provide the funding for the essential services we need. So thank you Oliver.
Now some questions?
Prime Minister, should the ABC get access to Nauru for the Pacific Islands Forum?
Well clearly we regret, it will be regrettable if the ABC is not there. We'd love to have you there with us.
Are you going to confront Nauru?
I will definitely be attending the Pacific Islands Forum. But we have to remember and respect Nauru’s sovereignty. It is up to Nauru who comes into their country, just as it is up to our government, my government as to who comes into Australia.
So we respect their sovereignty, but obviously we prefer to have events like this open to all the media.
Is this an attack on press freedom?
I can't really add to what I’ve said. We obviously support press freedom, naturally and we regret that the ABC has not been given a visa, but that is a matter for Nauru. I want to be very clear about this; Nauru is entitled to determine who comes into Nauru, as they decide.
Will you be raising it with the Nauruan Government?
Well the one thing I won't be doing is engaging in megaphone diplomacy. But I have a very good relationship with the President of Nauru and I look forward to seeing him soon.
Prime Minister, in relation to recent comments, is David Leyonhjelm fit to stand in the Parliament?
David Leyonhjelm’s offensive remarks should have been withdrawn the moment they were uttered and he should have apologised. And it’s not too late for him to withdraw and apologise.
That type of language has no place in Parliament and it shouldn’t have a place in any workplace. We have to treat each other with respect, we must do that. Respect for women in particular is one of the highest priorities that we should be focused on. I just want to be very clear about this.
It is a, you know, we often talk about domestic violence and our concerns there and all the measures we’re taking to address it. I just want to say this, it’s a reminder to everybody that not all disrespecting women ends in violence against women, but that is where all violence against women begins. So you need to have respectful workplaces where we treat each other with respect. Where we disagree, we disagree in respectful language. That is why, as far as Senator Leyonhjelm is concerned, the remarks, he should not have made those remarks. They were offensive. He should have withdrawn them. He should have apologised for them. It’s not too late for him to do so.
So is there a problem with sexism and slander in the Chamber during debate?
Look, I cannot recall remarks like that being uttered in Parliament before. I mean obviously I can't speak for every moment of every debate in every chamber, but I've never heard language like that before in the Chamber.
Are you comfortable with David Leyonhjelm’s comments, which he later then repeated on national TV?
I’ve just said they were offensive. He should have withdrawn them and apologised for them and it’s not too late for him to do so now.
Do you think he should resign?
That's a matter for him, he's been elected to the Senate. Senators and Members from time to time do make offensive remarks and very often you see, of course, in the House, the Speaker will call on them to withdraw.
I haven't heard language like that before, I don’t recall having heard it before, but in any event, it was clearly offensive. It should have been withdrawn and apologised for. And, you know, it’s not too late for him to do so now. It’s never too late, frankly. He should’ve withdrawn the remarks and apologised.
PM, Tony Abbott has accused you of trying to repeat your 2009 failed attempt to secure a deal with Labor on an emissions trading scheme. What’s your response to him?
The National Energy Guarantee offers the prospect of lower electricity prices. You don't have to take my word for it, the Energy Security Board has said it will reduce wholesale generation costs by 23 per cent. And it will reduce household bills as a result.
Our policies are already reducing energy prices. It is time for energy policy to get out of the realm of politics and ideology and be guided by engineering and economics. That is what my Government is doing, that's precisely what we're doing.
We are turning the corner on electricity prices. We have seen reductions across the national electricity market in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia. Victoria - new prices are set at the beginning of the calendar year so we look forward to reductions there in the future.
But what we're doing is we have - for example - we have reduced or seen the reduction in the wholesale price of gas by around 50 per cent over the last 18 months because of action my Government has taken. We have seen a reduction of at least 25 percent over the last year of wholesale generation costs already. We’ve seen that already. And in some states such as Queensland, the reduction has been much higher than that. Again, because of intervention by my Government.
The National Energy Guarantee will ensure that we are able to have reliable power that is affordable power. So my focus is on affordability; getting electricity prices down. Politics, partisanship, ideology have not served us well. Engineering and economics are the only guides that will ensure that we have a reliable and affordable energy system.
He says you are ideologically fixated on reducing carbon.
Well that’s, my focus is technology agnostic, absolutely technology agnostic. As I said, we've got to guide our policy by engineering and economics. What is the benchmark we should be focused on? It’s lower prices.
What we're seeing now is a reduction in energy prices, substantial at the wholesale level. We're starting to see that feed in to retail prices for businesses and for households.
Prime Minister there are claims that ten Defence Force staff in Townsville in a Chinook helicopter unit are accused of having traces of drugs, including cocaine, in their system while on duty. What's your reaction to the claims that soldiers are turning to drugs for things like PTSD?
Well you’ve asked me about a specific incident and all I can say is that that matter is being dealt with by Defence. The Defence Minister will have further to say about it in due course, but clearly drug use is absolutely against the rules, it’s not acceptable. And clearly, in relation to operating machinery, it is doubly dangerous. But I’ll let the Defence Minister speak about this specific issue.