Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA) National Small Business Summit keynote speech
Before I begin, I would like to extend my thanks to all the organisers of the COSBOA National Small Business Summit and wish to welcome back all attendees for Day 2.
Alexi and your team, the Go Local First team and Peter Strong – thank you for all your work in making sure small business is heard above all the noise of government.
This sector is critical to the health and vitality of Australian society, and the work you collectively do is critical to the success of the sector. The Morrison Government values everything you do, and I am always humbled by your endeavours and remarkable contribution.
Good to see my friend Bruce Billson here as well and a big thank you to all participants and panellists.
I appreciate the value of bringing together perspectives not just to constructively work on problems faced by Australian small businesses, but to also share secrets of success.
These discussions are particularly important now as small businesses continue to uplift the Australian economy from the recent challenges we have all endured.
In particular, I want to acknowledge the additional mental and physical toll the recent floods have taken on small businesses and communities in those regions. Make no mistake, this is a very difficult and challenging time for many and I can assure you the Morrison Government, working with the NSW and QLD governments, are backing the recovery with strong support.
I visited Lismore as flood waters in the initial flood a few weeks ago, in fact, I was the first Minister on the ground having been asked by the PM to get in and talk to locals about what they will need to rebuild. I spoke with many small business owners including the Mayor, Steve Krieg, himself a small business owner, and assured him we would not leave the town in a lurch.
The Morrison Government, with the relevant state Governments, has already announced $1.7 billion of support to New South Wales and over $1.35 billion to Queensland to rebuild after the floods.
This includes measures for small businesses such as:
$50,000 small business and not-for-profit grants and $75,000 primary producer grants;
$7 million to expand the Commonwealth’s business recovery and resilience service, Strengthening Business, into at least 30 of the most flood affected regions of northern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland; and
$800,000 to provide free and independent case managed financial counselling to flood affected small businesses through the Rural Financial Counselling Service under an extension of the Regional Small Business Support Program.
This support will help impacted small business owners get back on their feet, but it is going to be a challenging time for all. I am sure you all join with me in thanking those who are there on the ground supporting local businesses with the clean up and rebuild.
I want to turn now to the hot topic of the moment. The issue that many of you in this room and across Australia know too well: cost of living pressure. But not just cost of living, but cost of doing business too.
The announcement in the Budget last week of halving fuel excise for six months is already having an impact. Fuel prices across the country are coming down. This will go a long way to ease the pressure felt by you and your businesses and families but we also expect this to have an impact right across the supply chain.
But it isn’t the only way we are relieving pressure on costs.
We are making energy supply more secure, affordable and reliable for households and businesses as record levels of renewables are added to the grid.
We are providing $1.6 billion in tax relief to support more than 3.6 million small businesses to increase their digital uptake and skills capabilities through a bonus 20 per cent deduction.
This is a big deal and will go a long way to modernising Australia’s small businesses.
The digital upskilling of Australia’s small businesses will be supported through the Government’s broader $550 million Skills and Training Boost. Small businesses will be able to claim a bonus 20 per cent deduction for the cost of external training courses, until 30 June 2024 - for every hundred dollars a small business spends on training their employees, they will get a $120 tax deduction.
Likewise, through the $1 billion Technology Investment Boost, small businesses will be able to claim a bonus 20 per cent deduction for digital-related expenses and depreciating assets, up to $100,000 per year, until June 2023 - so for every hundred dollars small businesses spend on digital technologies like cloud computing, e-invoicing, cyber security and web design, they will get a $120 tax deduction.
These are real measures announced and delivered through the budget. This is the Morrison Government delivering for small business right now.
But we still need to keep the momentum going to drive productivity gains for small businesses, support their future growth and help them become more competitive.
We have announced a number of improvements to the tax administration system, particularly for small and medium enterprises. The changes will reduce compliance costs, streamline reporting requirements and improve processing times and cash flows.
As part of these improvements, the Government will set the GDP uplift rate for 2022-23 tax instalments to 2 per cent, providing $1.85 billion in cash flow support for 2.3 million taxpayers, including small businesses, sole traders and other individuals with investment income that use pay as you go instalments.
Small Business Support Package
To further illustrate the Government’s commitment to enabling small businesses to grow, innovate and create more jobs, the 2022-23 Budget contained an additional $25.2 million for initiatives that support small businesses, including $8 million for the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman to work with service providers to enhance small business capability – and I’m excited to work with the Ombudsman on this measure and we’ll have more to say on this important initiative as it is finalised in coming weeks.
For the Payment Times Reporting Scheme that commenced on 1 January 2021, which aims to improve payment outcomes for small businesses by creating transparency around the payment practices from large businesses to small business suppliers, $10.4 million of additional funding has been made available to enhance and redesign the Payment Times Reporting Portal and Register.
These improvements to the interactive visualisation tools on the Payment Times Reports Register will increase transparency of payment times reports for small business while making it easier for reporting entities to report their payment times through the portal.
Greater transparency will help small business make better decisions about the businesses they wish to trade with and help to hold big business to account on paying small businesses on time.
The 2022-23 Budget also contained various initiatives that recognised mental health and suicide prevention as a key priority. The Government recognises that the mental health and wellbeing of small business owners is integral to the health of their business and that some can experience significant financial stress in these challenging times. These initiatives include investments of:
$4.6 million to support the NewAccess for Small Business Owners delivered by Beyond Blue to continue to provide free, accessible, and tailored mental health support for small business owners – and it was great that former Prime Minister Julia Gillard highlighted this important government program yesterday, and we’re grateful for BeyondBlue’s stewardship on what is a key Morrison government initiative; and
$2.1 million to extend the Small Business Debt Helpline program operated by Financial Counselling Australia.
This is in addition to $61 million over three years from 2021-22 to extend the great work of the Rural Financial Counselling Service to provide advice to farmers, fishers, foresters and regional small related enterprises experiencing, or at risk of, financial hardship.
Skills and Training
I want to now turn to another issue I hear from pretty much every business I visit across the country: workforce.
I can assure you all, building a pipeline of skilled workers for the Australian economy is front and centre of the Morrison Government’s agenda.
A record $7.8 billion will be invested to deliver generational skilling across the nation, with a heavy focus on supporting apprentices and trainees. This investment will help ensure small businesses can get the skills they need to succeed and grow.
The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements and Completing Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidies will be extended for an additional 3 months increasing the overall investment to $5.8 billion leveraging the momentum over the past 18 months that saw the number of trade apprentices in-training reach the record level of around 220,000.
To provide certainty and not lose the terrific apprenticeship momentum we have created, the incentive framework beyond June 30 has been announced. $2.44 billion will be provided for a new Australian Apprentices Incentives System, with targeted incentives to employers, apprentices, and trainees.
$38.6 million will be invested to encourage more women to undertake non-traditional trade apprenticeships through guaranteed Gateway Service places, in-training support and targeted mentoring services to be provided by the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network. These additional services will help encourage more women to commence, and complete, apprenticeships in male-dominated trades like plumbing and bricklaying.
The JobTrainer Fund will be expanded, with the Government investing a further $48.5 million, contingent on matched funding from states. This will deliver up to an additional 15,000 free or low-fee places through the Aged Care Boost to support Australia's aged care workforce through to 31 December 2023. This will bring the total investment under JobTrainer to $2.1 billion, funding more than 478,000 training places, in partnership with state and territory governments.
And $3.9 million will be invested to support more women to take up roles in the digital technology sector. This program will include access to resources, online training, coaching and mentoring to support women pursue a mid-career transition into the tech workforce, to be undertaken in partnership with industry.
Small business focus across government
To give you an indication of the priority the Morrison Government places on small business you just have to look outside my own direct portfolio.
For small businesses operating outside our city, connectivity is everything, We are boosting connectivity for small business in regional areas by providing $1.3 billion, as part of the Government’s response to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review, including $480 million for NBN Co to upgrade its fixed wireless and satellite networks.
We have strengthened the Commonwealth Procurement Rules to further increase the prospects of SMEs securing Commonwealth contracts. From 1 July 2022, the Government has extended the Supplier Pay on Time or Pay Interest Policy to all contracts, regardless of value.
This means that all invoices for Government contracts must be paid within 20 calendar days or 5 calendar days if both parties are e-Invoice enabled.
This will further assist small businesses with their cash flow, by putting money into their pockets sooner.
We are providing $180 million in additional support for small and medium export businesses through the Export Market Development Grants program, with $80 million to re-establish their presence in overseas markets and a further $100 million under the Regional Accelerator Program for regional and rural businesses.
And we are establishing a dedicated unit to support small businesses in the Fair Work Commission, including with unfair dismissal and general protections disputes – to help smaller employers chart a path through this often complex framework.
In summary, the 2022-23 Budget focuses on small businesses and aims to give them the right operating conditions and support to enable them to recover, succeed and get ahead.
The Budget we have announced is our plan. It is a plan to grow. It is a plan to ensure small business gets the best chance to grow.
These measures build on the Government’s track record of delivering for small businesses by cutting taxes and providing incentives for business to invest—including by reducing the company tax rate for small businesses to 25 per cent from 2021-22, expanding access to a range of small business tax concessions, and introducing temporary full expensing.
We have also beefed up protections for franchisees through a tougher franchising code and penalties regime with special protections to back our local automotive dealers.
I know it’s been a tough few years, but the Morrison Government will always be looking forward to what more we can do to help you, and all Australian small businesses, thrive.
I can assure you, the Morrison Government is the best friend a small business can have - and I’m sure there will be more to be said on the Government’s steadfast commitment to small businesses over the coming weeks.
My aim as your Minister is to work as hard for the success of small business people as small business owners do. While the Coalition has delivered a substantial suite of small business measures, the Morrison Government knows that there is more to do. With your passion, vitality, and commitment to the enterprising women and men of Australia, we will continue this good work to support the sector and make Australia the most small business friendly economy within which to pursue entrepreneurial ambitions.
Thank you for your time and I wish you all the best.