The Morrison government reminded small businesses of the millions it has poured into pandemic and disaster relief over the past two years, as it made its case to SMEs ahead of the upcoming federal election.
“The Morrison government is the best friend small business can have,” Stuart Robert, Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business claimed in his address on the second day of COSBOA’s National Small Business Summit in Sydney.
The address came in response to Labor’s promise to cap invoice payment times at 30 days, champion lower merchant service fees, standardise disaster support, and slash red tape at tax time — delivered in a speech at the summit by Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Small Business Minister Richard Marles on Tuesday.
As election pitches ramp up, Robert reminded the small business community of its budget pledges to accelerate digitisation and turbocharge the skills pipeline.
What will the election mean to you?
Sign up to our free newsletter, including this weekend’s coverage of the election.
“The budget focuses well and truly on small business to ensure that small businesses have every opportunity to grow,” he said.
The government’s budget committed $1.6 billion in tax relief for Australian businesses upgrading their digital skills and equipment, and $2.8 billion to boost apprenticeship uptake and employee retention to address the skills shortage.
In addition, the Minister listed a raft of measures, including the $10 million for a dedicated venture capital fund for female founders announced yesterday, $1.5 billion in tax relief, and the cut to the fuel excise that is delivering “immediate relief” for businesses along the supply chain.
Robert also called out targeted measures including $10.4 million to redesign the government’s Payment Times Reporting Portal and Register, which will provide “greater transparency … designed to help you make better decisions about who you trade with” and level the playing field for SMEs and larger corporations.
More broadly Robert reminded small businesses of the Morrison government’s economic support over the course of the pandemic, including through its JobKeeper program the Coalition says saved 700,000 jobs and overwhelmingly supported the small businesses that comprised 97% of recipients.
“We believe strongly that our economic plan is working,” Robert said, reiterating that Australia’s current unemployment rate of 4% as of February 2022 was lower than before the pandemic.
Robert’s speech, backed by the recent budget’s grab bag of measures it can claim as contributing to the health of the small business sector, placed Australia’s successful economic recovery front and centre in support of the case to reelect the Liberal Party.
The minister contrasted support “available for businesses now” against Labor’s plans for the future.
“We are building a strong future — let’s not turn back now,” Robert said.