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The good, bad and indifferent of the Federal Budget: a small-business owner’s view

The 2023-24 Budget has been framed by the Treasurer as one that’s fiscally responsible, and one that addresses the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. That’s all well and good, and the relief measures for the welfare recipients and others who are really struggling with the soaring cost of living makes sense.

Small business hasn’t been forgotten in this budget (unlike the last one), which is positive, given SMEs are around 99 per cent of all businesses in Australia and contribute around half of our GDP!

But to be honest, I’m not sure the Federal government fully understands the significance of small business in driving the economy.

As a business owner of 25 years in the security industry with 40 staff comprising of full-time, part-time and casual staff, which is grappling with critical workforce shortages (which is preventing growth) I was sincerely hoping that there would be more in the budget that would incentivise and motive me as a business owner, to remain in business.

One thing I would have liked to have seen an incentive payment to small businesses to employ a particular demographic, such as over 55s who’d been unemployed for six months or more. This would assist with skill shortages and at the same time lessen the burden on our social security system. It would also boost those jobseekers’ standard of living.

On a positive note, there were several positive moves including fee-free TAFE places for critical and emerging sectors and a focus on more women in apprenticeships. These measures are a start to addressing our skills shortage, and encouraging more women into male dominated trades, which is an issue very close to my heart.

Two other positive announcements for small business are the Small Business Energy Incentive and the Energy Bill Relief Fund. While these measures won’t address the long-term issues around energy costs, which are crippling many small businesses, they will offer a reprieve for a short while.

As a business that has been hit twice by cyber criminals, the $23.4 million cybersecurity program is an overdue and welcome step in helping small business get more prepared to deal with cyber threats.

My business operates 14 vehicles, so the estimated higher transport and fuel costs are going to hurt, and I will need to evaluate that part of my business and look at ways to reduce my fuel and operating costs.

Finally, the elephant in the room for me, remains the government’s IR reforms which will impact many small businesses with enterprising bargaining agreements that will be “sunsetted” in December this year. These upcoming changes have created an environment of uncertainty, particularly for those businesses, like mine, with tendered fixed term contracts previously budgeted for by the client that now need to be varied. I personally have three contracts sitting in my inbox that I can’t sign off on because I have no idea what my wage bill will be in 2024. Additionally, I have no way of knowing whether I can avoid the sunsetting of my EBA at the end of the year, which also prevents me from growing my business.

This story was originally published on Inside Small Business.

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