Subject/s: Small business recovery grants, climate change
TOM CONNELL: Well, more announcements today from the government in terms of bushfire relief. The Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash joins me here in the studio now. Thanks for your time.
MINISTER CASH: It's great to be with you.
TOM CONNELL: Let's go through the help that's been announced.
MINISTER CASH: Yes.
TOM CONNELL: So the grants, first of all, this is for business physically affected.
MINISTER CASH: That's exactly right. So, if you're already one of the disaster declared areas and you are a small business that has had impact of the fire. So basically, something's burnt down or you need to replace an asset. You are now able to apply for a grant of up to $50,000 under the arrangements that are already in place. This is ensuring that we have consistency in the amount that small businesses are able to access across the board.
TOM CONNELL: Consistency across the country of course.
MINISTER CASH: That is correct, yes.
TOM CONNELL: I want to go through an example. So, say it's a takeaway shop.
MINISTER CASH: Yes.
TOM CONNELL: Significant damage. There's insurance for the rebuild.
MINISTER CASH: That's exactly right.
TOM CONNELL: Where does the grant come in and how does that assist?
MINISTER CASH: So it's basically over and above. So, if insurance is say $30,000 worth and you've applied for $40,000 that $30,000 would be deducted from the grant and we would provide the top-up of, say, the $10,000. So, you do need to show A) that you're a small business, so 20 or less full time employees. You do need to show that you're in one of the disaster declared areas, which would be obvious. Then, you do need to show that you have sustained damage as a result of the fire. You then need to, if you do have insurance, it would be deducted from, but that is the assessment process. You don't need to worry about that. That is the assessment process that will be undertaken.
TOM CONNELL: So, is the grant just for the physical damage? It doesn't cover, for example, if you say, well I'm going to have to pay these wages, and I want to keep these employees.
MINISTER CASH: No, the grant itself is for the physical damage. The concessional loans respond to the feedback. So, for example though, with the concessional lines, you don't just have to be in a disaster declared area you can be in that broader...
TOM CONNELL: Could be the next town over.
MINISTER CASH: Correct, and I think the example that's being used, and it's a really great example because it really hits home is Braidwood. So, not in a disaster declared area, but certainly when the Kings Highway was closed, it was impacted as a result of the fires. The information that we received was a loss of income was being sustained by so many of those small businesses.
TOM CONNELL: Right.
MINISTER CASH: Should they wish to, they will now be able to apply for a concessional loan of up to half a million dollars.
TOM CONNELL: And a very nice part of the world I would say.
MINISTER CASH: It's a beautiful. Do you know what's so fabulous? Is that how many people have you spoken to Tom, who from Canberra drove down to Braidwood on the weekend to support them and to spend some money. That's the message.
TOM CONNELL: Yeah, and the South coast as well.
MINISTER CASH: Correct. What can you do? Get in your car and drive down to one of those areas. It's reopened. Grab a coffee, have a meal, stay the night, support that local community.
TOM CONNELL: Indeed. I'm sure and hope plenty of people do. Just finally on the ground.
MINISTER CASH: Yeah.
TOM CONNELL: The way you describe it, it basically is what? Tackling under insurance if someone has insurance?
MINISTER CASH: Yes. Absolutely, that's exactly right. So, the value of the insurance is taken into account in assessing the ultimate amount that you are able to access.
TOM CONNELL: If someone has no insurance at all and they've sustained say $30,000…
MINISTER CASH: They will be able to potentially access the grant, yes. Well, you need to be a small business, you need to be in the disaster declared area with all the other qualifiers.
TOM CONNELL: Is it a dangerous message at all to provide the assistance to someone that doesn't have any insurance?
MINISTER CASH: This is all about in the first instance, getting those small businesses back to a starting point that they can continue on in that community. This is the stock standard procedure that's normally in place. So all we are doing in this regard is extending the amount of funding that you could already apply for, because as you know, different States have different amounts. What the Commonwealth has done here is consistent with what we announced last week with primary producers up to $75,000, this is standardizing the amount to $50,000.
TOM CONNELL: You'd hope though no one gets the message out of this.
MINISTER CASH: I agree with you. I agree with you.
TOM CONNELL: You've got 15 grand coming from the Federal Government, I won't worry about getting insurance.
MINISTER CASH: No, no, no, and that is absolutely not the message that we want sent. I think you're right. That is a very serious message. You should insure. A responsible citizen does insure, but in the first instance, this is all about ensuring that those small businesses and sole traders, who we need to get back and up and running, build back better. They need to clean up their business. They are able to access that grant funding or the top up grant funding.
TOM CONNELL: And in terms of the $500,000 loans, who decides the size of that? So, there's an indirect business.
MINISTER CASH: Yep. So, the cafe and Braidwood again, okay.
TOM CONNELL: Sure. Who decides? Is it up to them how much they apply for it and approved?
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. They would seek financial advice, obviously, as to what they should do.
TOM CONNELL: No one's going to say you apply for 300 we're going to give you 200 instead?
MINISTER CASH: An assessment process would be put in place, but it's the assessment process that's already in place. The concessional lines are already provided for by the state governments. Again, what we are doing is we're upping the amount, we're standardizing it, and we're making the process as simple as possible, but certainly financial advice would be sought up by any business that's looking to access the line. Just on the line though, this is really based on the feedback that we received from small businesses and in particular small businesses that were outside the disaster declared areas. So, the two year repayment holiday and the fact that no interest accrues during that time, I mean, that that's a huge win for small business on the ground.
TOM CONNELL: They hope, I know, is that they stay and they go, well there is hope over the 10 year period.
MINISTER CASH: And basically, that's exactly right. You will need to show that you have a viable business and you intend on staying within that community. Certainly, you know, the businesses I've spoken to, they don't want to leave their communities. They want to build back better.
TOM CONNELL: Okay. Now, just a couple of other topics. New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kane says there are figures in Cabinet talking about more action on climate change.
MINISTER CASH: Haven't been raised with me and are consistent with the Prime Minister. Don't know what he's talking about.
TOM CONNELL: Not a discussion colleagues are even having informally?
MINISTER CASH: I get the phone calls from colleagues who are representing small businesses and giving me the on the ground examples of what's actually happening. I have not had any body find me.
TOM CONNELL: Should it be a conversation given right now a lot of people are saying, gee, this is climate change is on the doorstep now. Shouldn't the Government and Cabinet Ministers be saying, “Well we know our plan, but could we go a bit further?”
MINISTER CASH: This is part of the ultimate process that we are going through. In particular, headed up by former AFP commissioner, Mr. Colvin, the bushfire recovery response and looking at over time exactly what has been done, what wasn't done, reports that had been provided that weren't accessed on. But in the first instance, what we are looking at, the prime minister I think has been really clear about this. Our first response has to be to support those communities on the ground.
TOM CONNELL: I understand that, and we've spoken at length about the first response.
MINISTER CASH: And the money that's going out the door to those affected communities.
TOM CONNELL: Absolutely. But the other thing an increasing number of voters seem to be saying is what about more long term? Again, given what we've seen this summer, shouldn't be at least be a conversation if the one's not happening at cabinet level?
MINISTER CASH: I think the Prime Minister's made it pretty clear that there will be a conversation, and in particular in relation to, so for example, one of the other announcements today as part of the small business package is looking at the local economic recovery plan. So, working with those communities on the ground to rebuild back better, and that would certainly take into account.
TOM CONNELL: But this is to do with the climate change policies of the government.
MINISTER CASH: Well, I think that the Prime Minister's made it very-very clear the government accepts the science of climate change. We will meet and beat our Paris targets. Certainly though, is it something that other people are raising with me? From my perspective, the answer is no.
TOM CONNELL: Do you think business as usual is fine?
MINISTER CASH: I don't, I certainly didn't say BAU is fine.
TOM CONNELL: No, but on the government climate change policies.
MINISTER CASH: The government has a suite of policies in relation to climate change. Do we need to look at the fact that the climate is changing and what is that resulting in Australia in terms of longer, hotter, drier summers? Of course we do. We need to look at our preparedness for these types of events.
TOM CONNELL: That's one side and that'll come out in the royal commission, but the other bit?
MINISTER CASH: Yes, the Prime Minister has made it pretty clear that's what we will be doing as a Government.
TOM CONNELL: Do you think to the next election you could take the same climate change, specifically climate change and emissions reduction policies?
MINISTER CASH: Policies evolve over time, but certainly in relation to our current policies, we only won an election in May and the Australian people endorsed those policies.
TOM CONNELL: Just on that, because the story over the weekend in the Sydney Morning Herald with Andrew Hirst briefed out cabinet members saying, you haven't won the election because of climate change policies and a much reduced target, you've won on the economy. Don't take this as an endorsement on climate change policy.
MINISTER CASH: I'm not aware of that briefing, so I'm not going to comment on something that I'm not aware of.
TOM CONNELL: But he's someone in that position that's in ... very good position to assess what's happened in the election, what the zeitgeist is.
MINISTER CASH: And again, we won the election because we listened to the Australian people. We won the election because we went into bat for the Australian people.
TOM CONNELL: Do you think there's a chance though that what the Australian people were saying then and now might've changed?
MINISTER CASH: All I get from people on the ground is an endorsement of government policies. In particular, when you look at my portfolio's small and family business, that acknowledgement by this Government and previous Coalition Governments that they are the backbone of the Australian economy, and as such, we are putting in place and have put in place policies that directly sustain that. That's the feedback I get on the ground that we are responding to the requirements of the Australian people.
TOM CONNELL: Just picking up what you said, you know, policies evolve all the time. So, do you think it would be fair enough to look at the area of climate change policies again between now and the next election?
MINISTER CASH: We were only elected in May and the Australian people endorse the suite of policies that we talk to the election.
TOM CONNELL: But I'm just asking if that could be looked at again?
MINISTER CASH: Again, we were only elected in May. The Australian people endorsed a suite of policies that we took to the election. Then the Prime Minister has made it pretty clear in terms of we will meet and preferably beat our Paris commitments. We have a suite of policies that are tackling climate change. Do we need to look at bushfire preparedness given the ongoing changes that we are now experiencing in relation to the climate? Well, the Prime Minister's already made that pretty clear as well. That is what we will be doing. In terms of my role and my response, it's all about sustaining those small businesses that as we know, they are the lifeblood of local communities. We need to ensure that we're doing what we can so they get back on their feet, they build back better, and they continue to do what we need them to do, which is employee Australians.
TOM CONNELL: You might be able to make it to Braidwood.
MINISTER CASH: I'm heading to Braidwood tomorrow.
TOM CONNELL: There you go.
MINISTER CASH: I'm heading to Braidwood tomorrow, yep. And looking forward to it
TOM CONNELL: All right, well, there you go. We'll tell the shopkeepers to ready themselves.
MINISTER CASH: Ready for the onslaught of Team Cash.
TOM CONNELL: Thanks for your time today.
MINISTER CASH: Thank-you.