Craig Emerson says innovation not ignored

Despite the cuts to the Federal Government’s Commercial Ready program, the Federal Small Business Minister Craig Emerson has dismissed claims that the budget has ignored small business and Australia’s innovative start-up culture.

Almost $1 billion of SME programs were cut in last week’s federal budget, inlcuding the $700 million Commercial Ready program. Businesses have been scathing about the decision to cut the program.

“We have a national innovation review underway that’s due to report in the middle of the year, and the review intends to bring about a national innovation system,” Emerson said on the sidelines of a conference in Melbourne yesterday.

“Small businesses can still access the research and development cash offset program, and obviously bigger businesses can access the R&D tax concession itself. There are tax offsets there as well for those businesses that don’t have sufficient income to claim the tax concessions.”

Emerson said that telecommunications expert and CSIRO director Terry Cutler’s review would build upon the findings of the Productivity Commission, which expressed concern about the Commercial Ready program. “The Productivity Commission has advised that there is a reasonable amount of evidence that [the program] was funding activities that otherwise would have gone ahead anyway.”

Small businesses may be reeling in the aftermath of the cuts, and will have to wait several months before knowing what other measures (if any) are in place, but Emerson assures them that the Government understands their needs.

“I’m batting for small business,” he says. “I ran a small business; Kevin Rudd ran a small business.

“Furthermore, those income tax cuts for small businesses are directly beneficial. One of the big things that governments can do is allow small businesses to keep more of their earnings. If they can do that, then through their own initiatives and enterprise they can do good things for themselves and this country.”


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