Four things Labor’s win in the NT will mean for SMEs

Just when Australia had settled down from the fever of the federal election, the Northern Territory has shaken things up again a landslide win to Labor at the weekend.

Labor leader Michael Gunner took his party well and truly over the line against Adam Giles and his Country Liberals party (CLP). ABC analyst Antony Green has assigned the Labor party 15 seats of the Territory’s 25-seat parliament, with another three potentially going the party’s way.

Four independents could be elected, depending on the fall of the remaining votes and the CLP could scrape through with potentially only one seat, although three others could swing their way.

This is a stark contrast to the 2012 state election, where the CLP took 16 seats to Labor’s eight.

Giles conceded defeat on Saturday night, calling the election result a “thumping,” and warning his party that “disunity is death in politics,” reported the ABC.

“It’s a result of personalities before the politics. It’s a result of looking after one’s self rather than thinking about the people,” Giles said.

With a new set of policies and promises on the cards, businesses in the Northern Territory can expect to see some changes under the new Labor government. SMEs in the country’s far north have been the target of some wide ranging changes in recent years, including a $13.6 million initiative to provide specialised advisers and facilitators for the tourism sector.

Gunner and his party have highlighted the importance of SMEs in the Northern Territory, stating, “the government has a responsibility to build the capacity of local business”.

Here are four key policy commitments Territory small business owners can expect to see from the Labor party.

1. Mentors for small businesses

In February, Labor pledged to introduce six small business mentors to foster SME growth in the state. These mentors will make up part of the Small Business Champions Unit to advise both business owners and act as advocates within the government.

The six mentors will be spread across the state, with home bases in Darwin and Alice Springs/Tennant Creek and one mentor focused entirely on remote businesses.

Labor will also look to provide assistance and seed funding for startups, and help create ‘Angel Investor’ groups in the Territory. This will come hand in hand with a $1 million dollar pledge to Business Innovation Support Initiatives, to foster innovation in the state.

“There is no one better to get people through the processes of government than the government itself. Labor’s small business mentors will work with small business operators to guide them through the issues they will face starting out in business,” Gunner said.

The Small Business Champions Unit is another initiative from Labor, which will be a specialised unit who will champion small business values, and also hold the government “to account.”

“Labor will restructure the Department of Business to create a specialised unit dedicated to championing the cause of small business. The Small Business Champions Unit will work with small business to hear their issues and then champion those causes within government,” Gunner said.

2. Closer government involvement with businesses

Labor has said it will work closely with businesses in the Territory to help them identify what the government needs in order to “stimulate local suppliers”.

“Labor understands that there are national and international rules that act to prevent government favouring local businesses but we understand that it is critical at this stage of our economic development to ensure that Territory businesses are given the opportunity to grow and develop by the largest player in the economy,” Gunner said in a policy document.

“Supporting local business not only has important economic benefits it has very strong social outcomes.”

One of the ways Labor says it will support local businesses is by continuing to support the “Buy Local” campaign, but it will change the approach to help businesses provide services and products to the government.

Each yeah Labor will produce a list of services and products it has purchased from businesses in the Territory, published as a ‘future opportunities for Territory business’ report.

3. Gunner’s 10-year plan

A 10-year infrastructure plan is also on the cards, as Labor intends to further articulate the “rolling” plans once settled in to government. This plan will intend to help businesses get involved with future infrastructure projects and prepare for government contracts.

Outlined so far is a focus on general areas such as housing and roads, but Labor has committed to “likely larger projects” in the future. Already in the pipeline is a $6 million plan to revamp the Darwin city entrance, including a new museum and fine arts gallery.

Tying into this pledge is an additional policy on mixing infrastructure project sizes to ensure opportunities for all businesses. Labor has promised $50-100 million dollar projects, along with “smaller construction projects, packages and repairs and maintenance to support smaller local business”.

4. School improvement stimulus package

Finally, in an indirect effort to increase business for Territory contractors and smaller trade-based businesses, Labor has pledged $300,000 to each school in the state to be used for repairs and maintenance.

“Schools will be able to contribute this money to co-fund a project from their own resources or use it directly on a smaller project or repairs and maintenance to boost the effectiveness of their school,” Gunner said.”

These grants will simultaneously act as a stimulus package to give Territory contractors across the state more work.

The total cost of this commitment is $61.7 million over four years.

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