The Queensland government unveiled its 2020-21 budget in parliament on Tuesday, highlighting the assistance already given to SMEs throughout the pandemic this year while offering limited new support measures for businesses.
The newly re-elected Palaszczuk government’s small business strategy includes $140 million to support businesses with high growth potential and those ready to grow internationally, as well as funds for state SME advocacy services.
However, Jane Rennie, general manager of external affairs at CPA Australia says the budget “offers little in the way of new support” for small and mediums businesses.
“Although SMEs have received out of cycle support throughout the year, it’s surprising there wasn’t more in the budget given their status as the biggest private sector employer in Queensland,” Rennie tells SmartCompany.
Announcing the ‘Big Plans for Small Business’ strategy, Minister for Employment and Small Business Di Farmer said the Palaszczuk government is committed to backing Queensland businesses and backing Queensland jobs.
“Small business is vital to this recovery as the engine room of the economy,” Farmer said in a statement on Tuesday.
$100 million for high-growth businesses
New support for SMEs in the budget’s small business strategy includes $100 million of the $500 million Business Investment Fund, which will go towards small to medium sized businesses that have high growth potential and are likely to create jobs in the state.
The fund will support businesses to expand into new markets, including export markets, and will be managed by Queensland Investment Corporation.
$30 million of investment to help businesses grow
Another $25 million will go towards small business grants in priority industry sectors, with $1 million to be invested in businesses that are ready to grow into international markets.
The government said it will also improve resources to help businesses expand by creating a Business Ready website and offering mentoring programs.
A summer taskforce will also be established to help businesses be more COVID-19 safe and operate outdoors.
Advisory services and procurement target
The Queensland government will spend $10 million on building SME advocacy services in Queensland through the permanent appointment of a Small Business Commissioner and re-invigorated Small Business Advisory Council.
The government is also introducing a new procurement target to ensure that 25% of all government spending on goods and services goes to small and medium businesses.
The budget includes the support already given to businesses this year, including the $1 billion in concessional jobs support loans that assisted businesses to keep their employees throughout the pandemic.
The budget also includes payroll tax relief measures across 2019–20 and 2020–21 through refunds, payment waivers and deferrals in addition to the $196 million electricity bill relief grants program.
However, Rennie says most small and medium enterprises are already below the state’s $1.3 million threshold for payroll tax and will therefore not benefit from the payroll tax relief in the budget.
“Many of the small business programs highlighted in the budget involve deferrals and payment extensions rather than outright waivers. These amounts will still need to be repaid at a future date,” Rennie says.