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Budget a slap in the face for business owners: Ciobo

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Opposition small business spokesman Steven Ciobo has slammed Labor’s budget decision to axe business support measures, including the Commercial Ready program.

Treasurer Wayne Swan last night announced Labor will save $707 million over four years by scrapping Commercial Ready, a grants program to help small and medium sized business to commercialise early stage technologies.

Ciobo rejects Labor’s view that Commercial Ready was an ineffective means of supporting small business innovation.

“There are hundreds of examples small business using the taxpayer subsidy provided by Commercial Ready to grow, generate jobs and further investment and ultimately add to government revenue through profits,” Ciobo says. “Now Labor has junked all of that – it really is a slap in the face for small business.”

Labor’s move to redirect some of the savings from Commercial Ready to green-tech innovation programs under the Clean Business Australia program does little to compensate small business, Ciobo says.

“Lets not confuse government initiatives on the environment with plain vanilla small business support – the economy is slowing down, small business owners are uncertain about their futures, so the worst thing they could do is to axe a billion dollars of small business support,” he says.

Ciobo is also highly critical of cuts to Federal Government support for the tourism industry announced in the budget, particularly a halving in funding to the Australian Tourism Development program from $29.9 million to $16 million and funding cutbacks for the statutory authority Tourism Australia.

“This is a major blow for the tourism sector, with the Australian Tourism Development program promoting tourism development in regional and rural Australia on a merit basis, contributing to long term economic growth and increasing visitor numbers and yield throughout Australia,” Ciobo says.

Unlike some of Ciobo’s Coalition colleagues, he is not prepared to describe the inflation problem Labor says is behind the need for cuts as a furphy, but says Labor’s budget will do little to bring prices down.

“We’ve heard Labor talk for months about reducing government spending to tackle what they call ‘the inflation crisis’ yet this budget sees an increase in government spending, so this will actually exert price pressures upwards, not downwards,” he says.

Ciobo would not commit to reinstating Commercial Ready, but says the Coalition will look closely at whether the program should be reinstated as part of its current policy review.

Science and Innovation Minister Kim Carr was unavailable for comment.

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