Victorians will head to the polls tomorrow to decide the Victorian state election, with both the Coalition and Labor parties pushing their policy promises on voters on the eve of the ballot.
Some of the big-ticket promises include the scrapping of the East West Link by Labor, building an airport rail link by the Coalition, and millions of dollars on both side to health, education and of course, business.
But what is being promised for the small business community?
Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry executive manager Steven Wojtkiw told SmartCompany, there has been bipartisan support on a number of issues important to small business.
“We have been encouraged that both parties have shown a strong commitment to support small business through measures that will improve small business’ willingness to employ more staff, participate more actively in government procurement, strengthen small business skills and help more small businesses get into exporting,” Wojtkiw says.
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany it was promising to see “both sets of political parties learning how to commutate with small business and work out the things we want to see”.
SmartCompany takes a look at the promises and the potential for Victorian SMEs.
Both the Coalition and Labor parties have pledged support for a range of possible infrastructure projects that could benefit small business in a commercial sense, including road, rail and other transport initiative.
Both parties have also said they will look at helping or reviewing the procurement procedure for small businesses looking to snag government contracts.
Some of the big promised projects include:
- $11 billion for an airport rail link (Coalition)
- $250 million on CityLink and road widening (Coalition)
- $1 billion for suburban roads (Labor)
- $500 million infrastructure fund for Ballarat (Labor)
Jobs are another issue that has the attention of both sides of politics, given recent unemployment rate fears across the state.
Small business will benefit from a range of incentives to take on more staff, in particular, subsidising payroll tax for employing young people.
Labor has signalled it will provide a $1000 payroll tax rebate for businesses that hire a previously unemployed young person to go towards offsetting hiring costs such as training or uniforms.
The Coalition is looking at lowering WorkCover premiums and waiving payroll tax for any employer who employs an eligible young person for 12 months.
Both parties have pledged money to improve skills and education, which will help small business owners who rely on skilled workers, although both have different ideas about how to go about it.
The Coalition, which has been under fire for cutting funding to TAFEs, has pledged $121 million to TAFE modernisation. Labor, however, has said it is committed to restoring the TAFE system.
The Coalition has said it will maintain current levels for VET funding and has committed additional support to help the automotive industry transition out of manufacturing, after the closure of several key car manufactures in the state. Labor has promised to review VET funding.
Both parties have signalled a commitment to international engagement and helping more Victorian businesses get into exporting.
Given the recent free trade agreements with several key Asian markets, the push to export might give small businesses a greater opportunity to be part of trade missions.
Specific promises to SMEs
Labor promises to:
- Review Victorian government procurement to address any barrier confronting SMEs
- Establish a Victorian small business commission, to look more closely at regulator impact on SMES
- Maintain the 25% red tape reduction target and make all government agencies report on progress
- Strengthen anti-predatory legislation from other jurisdictions
- Review of government payment processes on contracts with SMEs
- Ensure the WorkCover surplus is paid back into the WorkCover system, rather than used as government revenue
- Support innovation through various programs
The Coalition promises to:
- Make vouchers of $2000 available to employers who take on eligible young people who has been unemployed for six months
- Establish a WorkCover premium rebate for one year for businesses hiring an eligible young person who was previously unemployed
- Payroll tax exclusion for businesses hiring young employed people
Despite some promises to give certain business relief from payroll tax, neither of the major parties has tackled the issue on the top of small business’ wish lists: a reduction in the threshold for payroll tax.
“There has been potentially a missed opportunity,” says Wojtkiw. “We are calling on the major parties to help keep Victorian business be competitive by increasing the pay tax threshold to $850,000.”
There was also hope either party might consider a further reduction to the amount of payroll tax, after a small cut to payroll tax in May.