Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared the Liberal Party is not the party of “big businesses”, as he moved to put all options for tax reform firmly back on the table.
However, the peak body representing Australian small businesses says it is waiting to see some “substance behind the rhetoric” and is calling for Turnbull to reverse his decision to dump former small business minister Bruce Billson from cabinet.
In an interview on the ABC’s 7.30 program last night, Turnbull was pressed on whether he can relate to a large proportion of Australians given his enormous wealth and how he will foster loyalty among other members of the federal Liberal Party.
“Now, you know, the Liberal Party has many flaws, I’m sure, but it has got a couple of great virtues,” the Prime Minister said.
“It is the largest grassroots party. It is not run by any unions or big businesses or factions.”
“Our party room members do not come from one professional political class like most of Labor’s do. They come from every conceivable occupation, as you know. So we’re a very individualistic party.
“It’s also a party with wide ranges of opinions on a range of issues.”
When asked about reform to the goods and services tax in the same interview, Turnbull indicated his cabinet will consider all options for reforming the tax system.
“Tax reform is going to be a big part of our reform agenda going forward,” the Prime Minister said.
“That’s why we’ve brought the tax minister, the assistant treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer, into the cabinet.”
When asked explicitly if “everything [is] on the table”, Turnbull said he would not “rule things in or rule things out”.
“The truth of the matter is that when you’re considering reform, you’ve got to be prepared to consider all of the advice that you receive,” he said.
“I mean, clearly, there are practical limits as to what you would do. But the important things is to be open-minded, consult, engage intelligently, explain the challenges to the public in a manner that respects their intelligence and then make a decision, and having made a decision, then argue, advocate, in other words, why your decision is right.”
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said early this month there is a “powerful” argument for increasing the rate of the GST but said any change would have to be seen in the context of “overall lower taxes”.
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany this morning he is optimistic the Turnbull government will introduce reforms but he is waiting to see if there is “substance behind the rhetoric”.
“I expect substance will come … but my members will be watching to see if it is all rhetoric,” he says.
“That’s all we got from [John] Howard and [Peter] Costello.”
Strong says he is pleased to see the likes of Josh Frydenberg, Michaelia Cash and Kelly O’Dwyer in Tunrbull’s cabinet.
“They’re communicators and that is something that has been missing for too long,” he says.
But he says the small business community is “still shocked at the removal of Bruce Billson” as Small Business Minister.
“Given Kelly O’Dwyer has two jobs, two difficult jobs, I’m calling upon Turnbull to change his mind and bring Bruce back into cabinet,” he says.