Press conference with Chris Bowen, Julie Collins and Kristy McBain - Queanbeyan, NSW

KRISTY MCBAIN: Well, good morning. It’s a real pleasure to welcome you to Queanbeyan this morning at Hamilton’s Motel with the owner Jag Singh who does such a fabulous job here. But it’s so great to be joined by my colleagues, Minister Bowen, Minister Collins and Assistant Minister McAllister. We know how important it is to work with small and medium-sized businesses and with households across the country to bring down the cost of electricity. We want to do more in this space, and that’s why our government is committed to small and medium-sized businesses and helping them.

We know businesses like Jag’s already do an incredible job, and you can see that from the amount of solar panels and his EV charging stations here. But there is more we can do, and Minister Bowen will outline some of the things the Albanese Labor government is doing to assist businesses.

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, thanks very much, Kristy. It’s wonderful to be back in your fantastic electorate, and it’s particularly good to be joining Jag and Kay here at Hamilton’s Motel in Queanbeyan where Jag and Kay have made lots of investments because they want to see their emissions come down and their bills come down. And around Australia, small businesses want the same thing. They need to reduce their energy bills. Our government understands that very, very well. Energy bills are a big part of the challenges of running a small business these days. And we want to help small businesses reduce their bills and emissions and, indeed, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

So last year we intervened in the energy market, controversially, but it has to be done to help Australian businesses and households through this period of very high prices around the world. And last week we saw some of the evidence of the impact of that when we saw the price of electricity according to the ABS for manufacturers fall by one and a half per cent instead of the projection of going up by more than 30 per cent. That was the direct result of our intervention.

But we also know we need to do things over the longer term, and that’s exactly what we’re doing now. So what we’re doing now here today is talking about the scheme that is already up and running. This is a scheme which is available to small businesses now. If Jag and Kay choose to build more here at Hamilton’s Motel, add to the solar panels they have, the energy efficiency they’ve put in, for example, a battery. This is a scheme, our small business energy incentive, which enables them to get a 20 per cent bonus on their tax discount when they put their tax return in. For all businesses in Australia with a turnover of less than $50 million, that’s 3.8 million businesses across our country that can qualify.

So we want to make sure businesses know that this is available. They’re very busy running their business, running their lives. They may not be aware that the Albanese government has made this tax discount available for any investments made during this financial year. They can make them and claim it back at tax time.

Of course, in addition, in the budget we had our $1.7 billion energy-saving package. As part of that, a billion dollar injection into the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to help them with banks and other financial institutions make green loans available for households but also for small businesses who are decarbonising. That’s also another important thing, particularly in this high-interest rate environment.

So we are making these schemes available and, importantly, making sure that everyone’s aware of them. Jag and Kay do a wonderful job here, but they need help. It’s a big expense to get a battery for a hotel of this size. And, of course, we want to help them and we are helping them through this intervention, through the small business energy incentive, which is available from the 1st of July just gone and is available for 3.8 million businesses across Australia.

I’m going to ask Jag just to say a few words. Thanks for having us here today, Jag, and to your wonderful small business. And also then Minister McAllister and Minister Collins will just add a few brief remarks.

JAG SINGH: Well, thank you, first of all, to the Albanese government and the four ministers to come here and talk to us. And there’s a reason that they’re here – because we are the only ones in the town, especially in this region, who has implemented all the energy-efficient initiatives. We got the LEDs across the property. We’ve got the solar panels. We’ve got the EV chargers now. The next one is on the list I’m looking for and I’m very happy that the government has actually passed a bill that we can take some benefit from that energy incentive scheme as well. So the next one on the list, I will be having the batteries and then going forward the heating and the cooling of the systems as well.

So I would like to thank the government for bringing all these initiatives, and I would probably encourage all the other small businesses, because this is the time in this financial year you can take the benefit, do your best you can do. There’s $100,000 limit, so probably take the benefit out of it and have some energy-efficient equipment’s in your property.

JULIE COLLINS: Thanks, Jag. And it’s great to be here with Kristy as the local member and Chris as the minister and Jenny McAllister. This is about showing small businesses that we are on their side. This is about showing small businesses that we understand the important contribution they make to Australia’s economy. Last financial year more than $500 billion small businesses added to our economy, and they employ over 5 million Australians.

What Jag has talked about here is what we want to help small businesses right across the country achieve – we want small businesses to be able to save on their energy bills longer term. We’ve obviously got short-term energy bill relief in place, but this is about long-term support, bringing down energy costs over the long term. And I say to small businesses, this is in place, you should try and utilise it where you can. We understand that small businesses are doing it tough at the moment, and this is one practical way that the Albanese Labor government is providing support.

JENNY MCALLISTER: Thanks, Julie. And I join colleagues in really thanking Jag for welcoming us here to the Hamilton Motel. Well, every morning the LNP wake up and want to pick a fight with the government or with state governments about decarbonisation and the energy performance agenda. But they’re really picking a fight with the Australian people because all across the country people in their homes, people in their businesses recognise the value of technology that can improve energy performance, reduce emissions and save on bills.

Australia leads the world in the installation of rooftop solar, and energy performance technologies and energy efficiency are the next step along that journey. Small businesses like Jag will be able to benefit from the tax arrangements that have been put in place by this government. Small businesses across the country are already benefitting from the grants allocated to support them in improving the energy performance of their businesses.

This government doesn’t want to pick a fight with the Australian people. We don’t want to pick a fight with the future. We want to make every watt count, and we know that energy efficiency, energy performance and new technologies are the way through, and we’re so proud to be here and so grateful, again, to be welcomed in your electorate, Kristy. Thank you.

CHRIS BOWEN: Any questions, or are we all good? All good? Everybody’s happy, perfect government – thanks very much.