Politics

The upcoming Victorian state election: What businesses needs to know

Matthew Elmas /

It’s less than a month out from the Victorian state election and in a bid to get in early with voters, both the Labor and Liberal parties launched their campaigns late last month.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy have, unsurprisingly, very different policy platforms, but there are literally hundreds of different commitments.

That said, business advocates SmartCompany has spoken to have complained the Victorian election is a little light on as far as business policy goes it seems the focus has been on families and infrastructure.

“Aside from some relatively small commitments benefiting regional businesses, the major parties have largely ignored business this election campaign,” Victorian chamber of commerce and industry’s executive director of public affairs tells SmartCompany.

With that in mind, what do businesses need to know?

Liberals: Lower payroll tax for regional businesses

Businesses in regional Victoria will have their payroll tax cut from 2.42% to 1% under reforms promised by Guy.

About 4000 businesses in the state would benefit from the plan by an average of $11,600 a year.

It follows reforms by the Andrews government that reduced payroll tax for regional businesses from 4.85% to 3.65% in 2017 and to 2.42% earlier this year.

The policy is part of the Victorian Liberal Party’s plan to take the pressure off population growth in Melbourne by “decentralising” the economy.

Guy has also committed to a review of Victoria’s taxation system to that end, which would be carried out by the secretariat in the Department of Treasury and Finance Victoria.

If elected, the Liberals have also committed to an $18 million commercial innovation voucher program for startups and SMEs.

A Liberal-Nationals government would commit $9 million to the program, which would award businesses in certain “rapidly growing” industries with funding.

These sectors include medical and biotech, agritech, defence industries (including manufacturing), design and digital tech, transport and logistics, and renewable energy.

Guy has also said he will increase the number of police in shopping centres to deter criminal activity near retail businesses.

Labor: Tougher penalties for businesses doing the wrong thing

The Labor Party has a comprehensive policy platform paper that details a laundry list of commitments.

There will be tougher penalties for employers who neglect workers or underpay them under a re-elected Andrews government.

Employers withholding wages or other entitlements on purpose or falsifying employment records would face fines of up to $190,284 for individuals, $951,420 for companies, and up to 10 years in jail.

Penalties would also be increased for employers found to have underpaid their employees deliberately.

The policy would also lower the barriers for workers to pursue underpayment by decreasing court filing fees and shortening the time frame on court processes.

Labor also plans to introduce a new law increasing the penalties for employers whose negligence leads to the death of an employee. Under the proposal, employers face fines of almost $16 million and individuals face up to 20 years in jail.

Labor also plans to enshrine public holidays, including Grand Final Friday, into law, which would cement penalty rates on these days for workers.

The change would ensure workers are entitled to penalty rates on those public holidays, regardless of when they fall, even on the weekend.

There is also a plan to pass legislation so regular penalty rates and overtime are included in long service leave payments.

Earlier this week Andrews made another policy announcement, which will make it easier for clubs and pubs in Melbourne’s east to secure liquor licenses.

A re-elected, the Andrews government has committed to removing prohibition-era laws requiring a local vote to take place on liquor license applications.

Other commitments include:

  • Changing the Occupational Health and Safety Act to ensure definitions of violence at work include gendered harassment and sexual violence.
  • Enacting stronger penalties for sexual harassment and sex-based violence in the workplace.
  • Looking at introducing a provisional payments scheme so workers can receive an income while a WorkCover claim is being progressed.
  • Making it easier to pursue underpayment against directors personally, while also stopping the registration of directors who have exploited workers in the past.
  • Supporting small to medium businesses transitioning to a digital economy, although little detail has been provided on how this would happen.
  • Cutting red tape by working to reduce regulatory approval times and more broadly working to reduce regulation for SMEs.
  • Supporting investment through export markets such as China and India.
  • Ensuring the government pays small business suppliers in a “timely manner”.
  • Considering tax incentives and tax credits including payroll tax  that could help business increase workers.
  • Facilitating improved access to risk capital for scale-up and startup advanced manufacturing businesses.
  • Developing a consumer charter that sets out community service obligations for consumer-facing companies, with consequences if businesses don’t meet their obligations.
  • Upgrading the energy smart business program to help companies reach “world class standards” in energy use.
  • Providing funding to help businesses implement accredited energy efficiency improvement projects.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany.

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