Treasurer Scott Morrison says he won’t be “Santa” when handing down next month’s federal budget, but despite pledging to focus on infrastructure projects and tax cuts, all is quiet when it comes to promises for the small business community.
“There won’t be any Christmas in May,” Morrison told media yesterday, dialling back expectations after Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told the Daily Telegraph the budget would reveal “goodies”.
The Treasurer has told Fairfax the federal government remains committed to getting its full corporate tax plan in place despite hitting roadblocks over the most recent parliamentary sitting weeks.
However, there’s been very little said about the role innovation, small business and startup policies could play in the budget this year.
Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong says no news is probably good news, but highlights a number of important policy areas that haven’t been getting airtime of late.
“When they’re quiet, it’s normally because it’s a good budget,” Strong tells SmartCompany.
That said, there are key policy areas — such as procurement opportunities, payment times and training — where quick fixes are available, should the government choose to recognise these, Strong says.
“The issue of training is still huge out there [for small businesses], and it’s not just about employers. It’s about employees, and getting them prepared for another job in the future,” he says.
Strong would also like to see a budget commitment from the government to have all government agencies sign up to a commitment on payment times, forcing them to pay smaller suppliers in shorter time frames.
Then there’s the issue of procurement, where there needs to be more incentives for government agencies to give small businesses a chance to show their capabilities. Strong says a policy establishing a “Department of Procurement” would show a serious commitment to overseeing how smaller businesses can get access to lucrative government contracts.
“You’re not going to have a small business putting in all the computers at Centrelink, for example, but if they don’t give us access, they’ll miss out on cost savings and innovation,” he says.
Tax cuts for all a good thing
Morrison’s budget commentary remains focused on the government securing corporate tax cuts for the big end of town, but this could also be a good thing for SMEs, says chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, James Pearson.
“It doesn’t make sense just to deliver these cuts to the small business community,” he tells SmartCompany.
Instead, extending plans to cut the corporate tax rate to 25% for all businesses will give larger operators more surety and see them secure more deals with smaller suppliers, he says.
“Business does most of its business with other businesses. It’s an interconnected ecosystem, and it makes sense for it [the cuts] to be delivered to all,” Pearson says.
Quiet on the instant asset write-off front
Strong says he would be “quite surprised” if the federal government decided to ditch its popular $20,000 instant asset write-off policy, which is due to expire in July this year.
Pearson agrees, saying among his members, “it’s well used, and our members tell us this time and time again”.
SmartCompany contacted Small Business Minister Craig Laundy for comment on the future of the policy, but the minister’s office said no comment could be made prior to the unveiling of the budget.