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Source: Australia Government Ministerial Statements

Neil Breen:

I have the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing, Michael Sukkar, on the line. Good morning to you, Assistant Treasurer.

Minister Sukkar:

Good day, Neil. Great to be with you.

Neil Breen:

I’ve read a few of the versions of this story in various papers today. One thing stood out for me was the Sydney Morning Herald’s interpretation of the carry-back tax provision. So, if you’re losing money this year because of Covid-19, you can claim tax back on money that you made in previous years. Have I interpreted that right?

Minister Sukkar:

Well, no, there’s ten separate measures that now apply for businesses between $10 and $50 million and I can run through them. Basically, they include immediate deductions or a range of immediate deductions, extending FBT exemptions (there’s about three of those) and abolishing FBT for retraining and reskilling of employees, and a range of other measures that basically meant that those businesses don’t need to interact with the ATO or a revenue authority as often. In essence, these small business tax concessions are tax concessions that have always existed for businesses up to $10 million. We’re now saying, lets extend those to an extra 20,000 businesses with turnover up to $50 million, that’s 20,000 businesses covering 1.7 million Australian employees. In essence it means – whether it’s less FBT, whether it’s immediate deductions, whether it’s having to deal with the ATO less – that those businesses will have more money in the business because they’re paying less tax, they’ll have to deal with the ATO less because they will have eased reporting requirements, which effectively means they can focus on their business and they’ve got more money to reinvest into their business. So, the measure that you’re referring to is, I think, speculation and a different measure that they’re talking about. But today, it’s extending these small business tax measures and as I said, Neil, the other measure which hasn’t got as much of a run this morning has been the fact that we are removing FBT from expenses that employers incur to retrain or reskill employees. There’s this crazy old tax rule which basically meant that they had to pay FBT on that. We think that if an employer wants to invest in retraining or reskilling an employee, they shouldn’t have to pay tax on that.

Neil Breen:

Okay so if someone was working at a company and they’re doing job A and we want to train them up to do job C, and we send them to an external course, the business, are you telling me that they were charged FBT on that?

Minister Sukkar:

That’s right…

Neil Breen:

That’s madness.

Minister Sukkar:

Absolutely crazy, Neil. If you’re, for example, trying to retrain a service assistant to an online role because of the movement with retail from stores to online, technically, because that training doesn’t relate to their role as a service assistant on the shop floor, you’ve got to pay FBT on it. You’re right, Neil, nuts, so we’re abolishing that, and we want employers to invest in their employees in that way and so we’re removing that barrier.

Neil Breen:

Yeah good stuff. So, this budget on Tuesday, boy oh boy. It must be keeping you all busy. There are a million measures in it like this measure that you’re talking about today. We’ve highlighted many on this show. You might have to get out the cigars at the end of it?

Minister Sukkar:

Well, Neil, I heard in your intro that all of your colleagues are going to exotic locations. You’re coming to Canberra so the most exotic location of the lot. You’ll see next week that you’re right. This is not just the announcements that we’ve made – whether it’s the removal of responsible lending to make sure that people can get access to credit, whether it’s simplifying insolvency rules, whether it’s the gas and energy strategy, whether it’s the manufacturing strategy – there’s a lot in this budget and we haven’t even really scratched the surface. There’s a lot in it on Tuesday night and the reason is, is – as the Prime Minister said – this will most likely be the most important budget since World War 2 and we’ve taken that very seriously and this will set us up – we’re very confident – for the future.

Neil Breen:

Yeah, are you going to the Raiders game? I am.

Minister Sukkar:

Look, Neil, I’m a Melbournian so I follow the AFL, I’m a Geelong supporter so I’m still a bit salty after last night, we lost to Port Adelaide.

Neil Breen:

Oh yeah.

Minister Sukkar:

So, I have to apologise to you and your listeners.

Neil Breen:

I watched a fair bit of that game last night. Just quickly, I did want to ask you – I don’t like to talk about West Australian news too much on this show – but I was stunned yesterday by the West Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, saying ‘why should I open the borders because then people from Western Australia will go to the east coast and spend money and they won’t come here and spend money and I’ll lose money?’ Were you stunned by that attitude?

Minister Sukkar:

Look I was a bit surprised.

Neil Breen:

Weren’t the borders shut for medical reasons?

Minister Sukkar:

And we’re Australians.

Neil Breen:

That’s right. And we’ve got rights.

Minister Sukkar:

And most of us have family in other states and territories. I mean, I haven’t seen my folks who live interstate. I think everybody can understand that for very, very, very good medical reasons, why some short term restrictions were needed but, when you’re separating families and making it harder for Australians to get around their own country because, you know, you’re a Queenslander, I’m a Victorian, but Western Australia is part of Australia and we as Australians, should be entitled to visit there. I agree with your basic sentiments, Neil.

Neil Breen:

Yeah, it’s crazy stuff. Michael Sukkar, the Assistant Treasurer, good luck on the weekend while you work and put the fine print on that budget and we’ll hear all about it on Tuesday.

Minister Sukkar:

Absolutely. Good on you, Neil. Thanks for having me.

MIL OSI News