Release type: Transcript


ABC News Breakfast


Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business


Subject/s:  Small business recovery grants, ANAO report

MADELEINE MORRIS: Let's get more details on the announcement that small businesses devastated by bushfires can apply for grants of up to $50,000 or interest free loans from the federal government. 

PAUL KENNEDY: The Federal Minister for Small and Family Business, Michaelia Cash, joins us now from Parliament House in Canberra. Minister, thanks for your time this morning.

MINISTER CASH: Absolute pleasure. 

PAUL KENNEDY: Now the loans are available for businesses with significant asset loss or significant loss of revenue. What are the thresholds so people out there know exactly whether or not they're eligible? 

MINISTER CASH: Okay, so there's two components to the funding that is available. In the first instance, businesses in the disaster-declared areas that have, as a result of the fire being damaged, they are able to apply for a grant of up to $50,000. In terms of the concessional loans, this goes to businesses that have been affected by the fires. You don't necessarily have to have suffered damage as a result of the fire. It could be a loss of income as a result the fire.

In relation to that, businesses are now able to apply for a loan of up to $500,000. There is an interest-free period of two years. You don't have to pay anything for two years. The loan term itself, should you require it, is up to 10 years and the interest rate you'll pay after the two-year fee period is around 0. 6 percent. So, this is all about responding to the needs of small businesses on the ground, getting that cash out to them, so that they can rebuild and get back to doing what they do best and that is, of course, being the backbone of their community. 

PAUL KENNEDY: Now I understand that the funds going directly to those that have been damaged by fires. The other one that I just want to talk about briefly. Have you been to the fire zones or outside the fire zones to towns, tourism towns that have lost business? Can you give me an example of a place that might get it? 

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. So, you look at somewhere like Braidwood. So, in terms of the concessional loan, that is not in a disaster declared area, but it is in an affected area. So, you may have basically lost income as a result of the fires. You will be able to, should you qualify, a small business, apply for a loan of up to half a million dollars. But if you are in one of those disaster declared areas, and I have spoken to so many of those small businesses and I think what, you know, touches the hearts of Australians is their resilience. They just want to get back into business and if you have suffered damage as a result of the fires, you can now apply for up to $50,000 in grant funding that will help you get over that hurdle and get back into business. 

PAUL KENNEDY: I think we understand what you're proposing here. Just one more question about that. Who is overseeing this, so it's not too complicated and stressful for those people, because getting a loan at this time, if you've got no cash flow, that's another stress?

MINISTER CASH: That is exactly right. This needs to be as simple as possible. The good news is, the mechanisms are already in place with the varying state governments and we will use the existing mechanisms, money is already flowing, already flowing to small businesses. This is now additional funding that you can apply for. 

PAUL KENNEDY: Great and people can get advice from the ATO there's a hotline. 

MINISTER CASH: That's exactly right. 

PAUL KENNEDY: So, I want to move on to another matter now. Senator Bridget McKenzie has yet to be stood down or sanctioned in any way that I can tell by your Government, for her role in that $100 million sports grants scandal. Why?

MINISTER CASH: Well, I reject the premise of what you’ve just put forward.

PAUL KENNEDY: Which is? What do you mean by that?

MINISTER CASH: That it is a sports grants scandal. These grants that were handed out, even the ANAO report found that -

PAUL KENNEDY: She was criticised heavily by the Australian National Audit Office for interfering, when she had no right to interfere, with giving out grants to community based sports clubs.

MINISTER CASH: All grants that were provided were consistent with the guidelines and were all eligible. I heard the Prime Minister this morning, and I’ve met with many of these sporting bodies that get these grants. I’m talking about grants that are going to assist in the building of facilities, so girls could actually get changed without having to hide behind a tree or in a car. No rules were broken, the ANAO report was very clear on that. All grants that were provided were within the guidelines.

PAUL KENNEDY: Michaelia Cash, that’s not true. This program was needs based, as in, some community clubs need it more than others. That’s where the interference came and that’s where the criticism follows the Senator that has not been sanctioned by your Government.

MINISTER CASH: And again, the ANAO report was very, very clear. All of the community grants that were handed out were within the guidelines and all of the recipients were eligible.

PAUL KENNEDY: That’s not my reading of it.

MINISTER CASH: Well, you and I will have to agree to disagree. And I have to say what I’m focused on though is small business. Small business recovery in the bushfires and that resilience of small businesses and the assistance of the Government can provide to them on the ground. So they can build back better and get back to doing what they do best, which is employing people within the local community.

PAUL KENNEDY: Yes, you’ve answered questions about that and I’m talking about another matter now. What has the Government done to find and assist those sports clubs that were ripped off by the Senator’s actions to interfere with this program which she was not supposed to interfere with?

MINISTER CASH: Again, I think you and I will have to agree to disagree because I reject the premise of your question. These programs, they’re great programs. I think with so many of them they are always oversubscribed. Minister’s make their decisions based on recommendations, recommendations that come from Departments. As Senator McKenzie did in this case all of the grants that were provided were to eligible organisations. All of the communities -

PAUL KENNEDY: You wouldn’t be interested in comparing the need now, after all of the criticism before a Senate inquiry, you’ve got no interest in comparing the needs of the Mossman Rowing Club versus other clubs which missed out on funding? You’ve got no interest in examining that?

MINISTER CASH: I think the Minister has been very clear. She will take on board, and the Government will take on board, the findings of the ANAO. But, in relation to the communities that received the grants, they were all in need and they were all eligible. As I’ve said I’m the Small Business Minister. I know what I’m focused on today, which is the further announcement by the Government of ensuring we are getting funding out the door to small businesses that are in need of assistance. So that they can rebuild back better and do what we need them to do which is be the lifeblood of these communities.

PAUL KENNEDY: Just one final one. Politicians are always in charge of different grants programs, though they differ slightly. Have you ever interfered with a non-political grants program?

MNISTER CASH: Well again, I’m going to have to reject the premise of your question in relation to Senator McKenzie. Guidelines and followed and decisions are made.

PAUL KENNEDY: Michaelia Cash, thank-you.

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you.