The warnings came loud and clear that this year’s budget was going to be a blood bath.
First there were the leaks about the government’s proposed “debt levy” on high income earners and an increase in the pension age.
Leaking details of unpopular taxes and cuts are all part of the psychological process of softening us all up for the bad news.
Small to medium-size businesses, we were told, would not be spared.
So on budget night, wading through the swathes of budget documents, it’s not so surprising to see the abolition of Commercialisation Australia and a range of other measures designed to assist SMEs.
Of course the joy of this being Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget is that he can put the blame for everything squarely on the previous government.
“On the back of five budget deficits in a row we have inherited a further $123 billion of deficits and debt rising to $667 billion,” he said in his budget speech.
“The challenge is not of our making, but we, the women and men behind me, accept responsibility to fix it.”
And amidst all the dire predictions and (wholly justified) cries of “broken promises” it was a relief to see the government had actually stuck to its election promise to cut the company tax rate and bring in unfair contract provisions for small business.
Admittedly, the company tax cut doesn’t help those small businesses which pay tax as individuals.
What’s more, the unfair contract provision extension is only costing $1.4 million, which is chicken feed in a budget that deals in billions, but it’s still a measure that will be welcomed by SMEs.
For small and medium-size businesses this was also the budget which gave with one hand and took away with the other.
The “Restart” scheme for mature age workers comes at the expense of existing schemes while the Small Business Ombudsman replaces the existing Small Business Commissioner.
“The time for everyone to contribute is now,” Hockey said in his speech.
“I say to the business community, we need you to help out.”
This time it looks like small business is going to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting for Hockey while big business sails through relatively unscathed.