Sky News - Labor Small Business Listening Tour

12 July 2019

FRIDAY, 12 JULY 2019

SUBJECT/S: Small Business listening tour, Infrastructure spending, First Nations Voice

ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: Out west were going to check in with Labor MP Matt Keogh about news of the day, Matt, thank you so much for joining us. Now one of the things that Labor is doing at the moment that youre helping spearhead is an inquiry into small businesses around the country. What is the purpose of this listening tour? Is it to learn from the mistakes of the election pitch Labor made?

MATT KEOGH MP: Well thats clearly part of it. I think everyone knows we didnt quite get there in May and as part of our review of all of our policy settings its important that we dont just do that ourselves, that we actually go out and talk to Australians about where they think we should be on our policy settings. An important part of the Australian community is the small business sector. It employs something like 44% of private sector employees, its a big part of our economy and its a sector thats continually been talking to us about the need to get regulatory setting right, to make sure that impediments that are in their way are out of their way so they can be successful and continue to employ Australians and help with the economic prosperity of the country. But in order for us to get those policy settings right we need to talk to them and we need in particular to listen to them and the small business is a very broad sector. It covers a lot of very broad areas in the economy and different types of business to make sure were understanding them properly were doing what we think we owe them which is to listen to them.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: And Matt did you feel in a broad sense and its relevant to small business as well obviously, that Labor needs to tap into that Hawke, Keating legacy something that John Howard did very well. To appeal to the aspirational sentiment of most Australians.

KEOGH: I think Kieran, there is something to be said for making sure all Australians need to feel that the Labor party is listening to, and speaking for, them. Whether they find themselves on a low income, whether they find themselves as someone on a high income or whether they themselves are trying to run their own business. I know from the consultations Ive been undertaking already that many small business owners dont actually themselves end up earning a lot of money, they employ some people and the amount of money they then have to take home is not a huge amount but they are contributing to the economic growth of our community. And its important we recognise all of the pressures that they are confronting, as well as the pressers that are on their employees as well, so yes I think theres an opportunity for Labor to make sure people feel, regardless of where they sit on the spectrum of economic prosperity, or where they sit in our society, that they feel that Labor can be the party for them.

NIELSEN: When it comes to that economic prosperity weve seen the economy has been softening slightly, but weve had yesterday the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg standing side by side with Phil Lowe saying theyre on the same page, that economic stimulus is coming and thats going to flow through to the rest of the economy including small businesses. Are you confident that they do have the right strategy to stimulate the economy?

KEOGH: Well the Reserve Bank Governor has been saying for at least three years now that Government needs to invest more in infrastructure and they need to do it quickly and some of the State Governments have been in a position to do that. The State Government here in Western Australia is now doing that, the Government federally though has been taking its time to understand that issue and its been talking for a long time about its $100 billion infrastructure investment, a lot of which is still quite a few years into the future. It was good to see Josh Frydenberg seems to be starting to listen to that message, despite the fact the government didnt want to listen to that message when they were hearing it in parliament last week. They now seem to be listening to it but they dont seem to have a plan for what theyre actually going to deliver in terms of infrastructure funding. Clearly the Reserve Bank Governor has been saying strongly to Government okay the tax cuts are important to get flowing quickly as part of that economic stimulus and thats now occurred in part, so thats a good start, but I dont think the Reserve Bank Governor is changing his beat in saying theyre doing as much as they can but they do want to see the Government doing more and they havent had their eye on that ball for the last six years and its about time they start concentrating on it.

GILBERT: Well he did, the treasurer detail, their pipeline of infrastructure spending. He said in a statement alongside Phillip Lowe yesterday he went through every phase of that $100 billion. I guess the other point to make Matt Keogh is its not just Federal spending. You go through any of our major cities at the moment and there are quite a few cranes around and a lot of major project work under way.

KEOGH: Thats true in Sydney and Melbourne Kieran, but its not true in the other states and you can see that reflected in the unemployment rates.

GILBERT: Queenslands got a bit happening.

KEOGH: Well Queenslands got a lot that needs to start happening but when you look at interest rates that are at oneper centright now, we want to see the money flowing immediately. I had a conversation with one of the major banks yesterday, and we were acknowledging the problem that its all well and good to have plans for major infrastructure but if its going to take one or two years to ramp up to that construction work happening and that money flowing through the economy, then youve got a gap, and what were not seeing from the Government yet is whats their plan to make sure the economy continues to grow at a strong rate right now.

NIELSEN: One of the big issue in Parliament at the moment is an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, whether that or something similar should be enshrined in the Constitution but it looks like the Prime Minister is going to veto any constitutional changes. Would you like to see a stronger commitment on that point?

KEOGH: Well its amazing, we knew the Government was good at internal division but I didnt think it would show up this quickly. Especially division between the Prime Minister and his Indigenous Affairs Minister on this very issue, and thats really concerning because the commitment that Labor has made is that we want to work with the Government on this issue to make sure theres as much progress on this as possible, so when theres division between the Prime Minister and his Minister, thats quite concerning and weve seen a number of backbenchers from the Government coming out yesterday and also pouring derision on this agenda and that is concerning. I note that the Prime Ministers veto. as its reported was about this idea of a third chamber and its important to recognise that whats been talked about as a voice is not a third chamber. I think that mischaracterisation is quite unhelpful but Labors commitment is this and its the commitment the Indigenous Affairs Minister made in his speech. Its to consult with Australians, consult with obviously First Nations Australians about what they want, and for everyone to walk together on the journey. I dont think people coming out and I note it was reported from Government sources it wasnt directly from the Prime Minister per-say, but I dont think its helpful for there to be vetoes and for ruling things in and out in part of a process of consultation and walking together on a journey to make sure we get the best result for not only recognising first Australians in our constitution, but listening to and responding positively to the strong message that came in the Uluru Statement, which was what, after many years of consultation, our first nations people said to us, that is what they want.

GILBERT: Do you think Labor has to be careful too not to politicise this as well because obviously its such a complex thing to achieve, weve tried and failed over a number of years in a number of iterations. Does Labor need to be cautious of not putting too much heat it through politicisation of the issue?

KEOGH: Yea were very conscious that we need to, in order to have any Constitutional change, the way forward for that is to make sure that there is a bipartisan approach, good agreement across the political spectrum on the nature of the Constitutional change being sought. That is the pathway to success in amending the Constitution. And thats why Linda Burney and the Labor team have been working closely, weve always said we want to work closely with Ken Wyatt, with the Government in progressing this change, walking together and its why I express that concern that from either side, people are being seen to rule things in and out, just as the process is restarting.

NIELSEN: Matt Keogh, thanks so much for your time.

KEOGH: Great to be with you guys.