Release type: Speech


Keynote address to Bizruption 2019, Sydney


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

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Good evening — it is great to be here tonight to talk with you about the importance of small business and importantly how we can improve the digital capability of small business in Australia.

I’d like to acknowledge Mr Dinesh De Silva, CEO Netstripes, for organizing this great event - and special thank you to PwC for hosting us tonight.

Promoting Australia’s small businesses — now numbering 3.4 million and employing six million people — has been a passion of mine ever since being appointed as Senator for Western Australia.

I am excited to have ministerial responsibility for the sector, within my portfolio of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.

The configuration of the portfolio following the Government’s re-election under Prime Minister Scott Morrison means I can drive cross cutting reforms to develop a skilled and flexible workforce that has the up-to-date and practical skills needed by employers — large and small.

Before the last election, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, set an important task of supporting the creation of 1.25 million new jobs and 250,000 new small businesses.

You and I know that it isn’t Government that creates jobs or businesses —  it is the hardworking people in this room.

However, the Government has the important role of getting the policy settings right and creating the right operating environment for business to grow, prosper and ultimately employ more Australians.

And our track record on this is strong.

I’m proud to be part of a Government that has overseen the creation of well over 1.4 million new jobs since we came to Government in September 2013.

There are now more Australians in work than ever before — in fact there are now 12.9 million people in employment here in Australia.

Despite global headwinds, the Australian economy is in a good place.

We are in our 29th year of uninterrupted economic growth and with the Budget recently returning to balance for the first time in 11 years — I’m excited about Australia’s future.

And I’m especially excited about the future of Australia’s vital small businesses. 

Small businesses are often referred to as the backbone of the Australian economy - and I agree with that - but they are also the lifeblood of local communities across the country.

Not only do they provide employment for locals — they often support the local sporting teams, community groups and charities. 

To ensure these business thrive we must address the issues and barriers stopping them from growing.

As such, we’ve taken direct action to address the three biggest areas of concern:

  • Cash flow
  • Access to finance; and
  • Red-tape

I know cash flow is king for small businesses, and it is unacceptable that small businesses consistently receive late payments on invoices.

This has a knock-on effect across the economy, as firms paid more slowly delay payments to their own suppliers.

This is why the Morrison Government’s new reporting framework will require large businesses with over $100 million turnover to publish information on how quickly they pay small businesses.

And since July, all non-corporate Commonwealth entities must pay invoices for contracts up to $1 million within 20 calendar days.

But we aren’t stopping there — we are now looking at ways to reduce government payment times to five days for small businesses that use e-invoicing.

To further support cash flow, we have fast-tracked the cuts to the company tax rate for small businesses and increased the instant asset write-off threshold to $30,000 and extended it for another year.

Many small business owners have told me they find it very difficult to obtain the finance they need to fund day-to-day operations and to invest in their future — in fact, lack of access to finance is their biggest barrier to growth.

To overcome this, we established the $2 billion Australian Business Securitisation Fund which will provide funding to smaller banks and non-bank lenders to offer loans to small businesses on more competitive terms.

We also committed $100 million to establish the private sector led Australian Business Growth Fund to provide longer-term equity funding to small businesses, allowing them to turbo-charge their growth.

Australia is recognised internationally for its approach to deregulation and the Liberal National Government has a solid track record of delivering red tape savings to small business.

In fact, since coming to Government in September 2013, we’ve cut $6 billion worth of compliance costs for individuals, small business, and community groups.

Right now, we are collaborating with state and territory governments through the National Partnership on Small Business Regulatory Reform to encourage states and territories to reduce their regulatory imposts on small businesses.

We’ve put $300 million on the table to incentivize states and territories to cut unnecessary red-tape.

Just weeks after the election, the Prime Minister established the national Deregulation Taskforce with a specific focus on cutting red-tape to help sole traders and micro businesses.

While addressing these three fundamental issues, we’ve also been busy ensuring small businesses take advantage of the opportunities in front of them - including embracing new technology to grow their business.

As such, I am delighted that NetStripes had produced this impressive State of the Nation report on the digital engagement of small business in Australia in 2019.

The gap between where most small businesses are, and where they could be, is so stark that we need every voice available to be explaining why small businesses need to move forward with digital engagement.

Small and medium enterprises with higher levels of digital engagement are:

  • 50 per cent more likely to be growing revenue
  • eight times more likely to be creating jobs
  • seven times more likely to be exporting, and
  • 14 times more likely to be innovating new products and services.

There’s no question that nearly every small business in Australia would benefit from increased digital capability — the real question is instead how do we help them to get over the hump so they start realising the benefits.

That’s why the Government is investing in helping small businesses keep up with technological change and harness the opportunities offered by the digital economy.

Our Small Business Digital Champions Project commenced in April this year with an objective to create relatable, real-time case studies to inspire and inform small business owners across Australia about how to go digital.

The project is providing 100 small businesses from diverse sectors a digital makeover of up to $18,500 worth of digital goods and services to transform their business, plus additional in-kind support offered by Corporate Partners to the project.

Fifteen of the 100 small businesses are Digital Champions and are receiving additional mentoring assistance from high profile entrepreneurs and their digital journeys are being captured to provide online content for all Australian businesses to help them undertake a similar transformation of their own business.

We also have 15 industry associations promoting the benefits of ‘going digital’ and providing tailored advice on enhancing their businesses through digital technology to their members.

All small businesses selected to take part in the project have had their Digital Needs Assessment completed by the Digital Transformation Provider, Deloitte.

While it still early for the businesses undergoing their transformation, it is an exciting time and I am looking forward to the further results as they roll out.

The Digital Champions Program supplements the important Australian Small Business Advisory Services Digital Solutions (ASBAS) program.

ASBAS facilitates experienced business service providers to improve the digital capabilities of small businesses across metro and regional Australia in the areas of:

  • websites and selling online
  • social media and digital marketing
  • using small business software
  • online security and data privacy.

We are pushing forward with all these initiatives and approaches because we understand the importance and benefits of businesses going digital.

We’ve seen proven results when government has embraced digital capability and we know it will benefit small businesses.

For example, earlier this year, the Morrison Government launched an exciting new digital tool known as Skills Match to provide information on the skills demanded by employers for jobs at a regional level.

Skills Match is located on our popular Job Outlook website and allows workers and job seekers to match their current skills and experiences to training and career pathways that lead to new jobs.

Over time, we should see an increase in the number of job candidates ready for the jobs local employers are offering.

The reality is that everyone has a stake in adapting to digital change and disruption.

Employers, education and training providers, workers and job seekers can all contribute by investing in skills development and adopting strategies that prepare workers for future jobs.

Across the different elements of my portfolio, I am excited to be driving integrated reforms that grow the economy as a whole and strengthen the capability and resilience of individuals and communities.

Small and family businesses are getting the policy attention and programs they deserve so they can improve their already strong contribution to our national economic strength and social wellbeing.

And we know digital engagement can be a key driver of business growth, job creation and productivity increases.

That is what tonight is all about and it is fantastic to be promoting stronger digital engagement for small businesses this evening.

Congratulations to the many people involved in organising this event and I commend everyone here for your continued support for small business in Australia.