The Victorian budget will be unveiled tomorrow and for small businesses — in the only Australian state to have endured a 111-day lockdown — there is much anticipation.
Treasurer Tim Pallas is yet to announce the details, however, hints of what’s to come have already been released.
Last week, Premier Daniel Andrews announced a $465 million package for regional Victoria to help boost tourism and business outside of the city.
Pallas also flagged tax reductions — including cuts to lure international companies to the state — and infrastructure projects to drive economic recovery.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Council of Small Business Organisations Australia chief Peter Strong says the upcoming budget must help small businesses “survive and thrive”, with grants and vouchers to enable them to continue trading and receive mental health support.
“When it comes to the pressure placed upon individuals to keep their staff, to keep them on JobKeeper, to deal with confusing information coming from the government over the last month, small businesses have paid for it,” Strong says.
Access to financial advice
Strong says he hopes the budget has critical support packages for industries that have been most affected by COVID-19, such as the travel sector and the entertainment industry. But what he most wants to see is free access to financial advice.
“For businesses that are going through big change, we really would like to see support for them to go and get expert advice about how to restructure and plan their future,” Strong says.
Strong says a voucher system that would allow SMEs to seek advice from their own accountants and certified bookkeepers would be a great addition to the budget.
“The voucher system is really critical. Some small businesses are absolutely struggling — they’ve had no turnover, they’ve continued to have outgoings. But they can survive if someone gives them support,” Strong says.
Support for regional economies
For small business advocacy groups, it is essential that the Victorian budget has specific measures for boosting regional economies.
Strong says budget-making is overly centralised and often forgets about regional, local economies.
“You do not fix Victoria from one office in Melbourne. You create an environment where jobs will be created out in the rest of Victoria,” Strong says.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce’s budget recommendations call on the state government to re-establish the Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund to support a strong ongoing regional tourism pipeline and encourage private sector investment outside of metropolitan Melbourne.
The chamber also wants Parks Victoria to receive a significant increase in funding so the organisation can better support tourism and replace infrastructure that has been damaged by the Victorian bushfires.
Grants and tax relief
Grants and tax cuts are also high on the list of what business groups want to see in the Victorian budget.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce has recommended the state government increase the payroll tax threshold to $1 million, as well as reduce the payroll tax rate to 4% for metropolitan Victorian employers and 1.75% for regional Victorian employers.
It also said grants of $5,000 to $50,000 could help businesses offset the costs of upgrading their facilities to become COVIDSafe.
SMEs with an active electricity account that uses less than 100,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year could also benefit from a $1,000 rebate, the chamber recommended.
New South Wales released its budget last week in what Peter Strong calls a “visionary plan” that involved input from businesses of all sizes right across the economy.
“When you look at the whole plan, it was a very good visionary plan that came out of New South Wales, it would be nice to get the same out of Victoria,” Strong says.