Australia’s small business sector has welcomed new federal budget measures aimed at alleviating the skills crisis, but the lack of direct cost-of-living support remains a concern for the hospitality sector.
Against the backdrop of rampant and persistent inflation, Labour’s 2022-23 federal budget, unveiled on Tuesday evening, outlined measures the government hopes will help small businesses without worsening the cost of living crisis.
The budget documents allocate $42.2 million for Labor’s pledge to fast-track the qualified visa processing system, a move designed to fill gaps in the domestic workforce.
The amount of income older and veteran pensioners can earn before their pension payments are cut has also been increased, a move intended to encourage Australians with extensive industry experience to return to work.
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While unemployment is stable at just 3.5%, the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association of Australia (R&CA) has welcomed fiscal measures focused on labor shortages.
“With crippling staff shortages and wages and costs spiraling out of control, the industry desperately needs bold, far-reaching policy reform to bring back the workers lost over the past two years,” said R&CA CEO Belinda Clarke.
But hotel operators hit by rising prices need more targeted support, she added.
“More needs to be done to support small businesses across Australia who are struggling with the rising costs of doing business.”
Calls from hotel providers to deepen subsidize customer bills or fees spent on third-party app platforms went unanswered in the budget, with the government saying its options were limited by the economic climate.
Speaking on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government could not afford a budget replete with business support measures that could push up inflation.
“If we had had a splash of money, it would have just added to inflation and been counterproductive,” he said.
“We therefore made these difficult decisions in the national interest.”
While measures aimed at small business were rare in the budget, industry representatives are broadly happy with Labour’s approach.
The Australian Council of Small Business Organizations (COSBOA), a leading group representing small industry associations, gave the budget a score of “7/10”.
The $4.7 billion increase over four years in child care subsidies was likely to support parent business owners, especially women entrepreneurs, said COSBOA CEO Alexi Boyd.
Further consultations are needed to ensure the plan also covers care outside of school hours, she added.
“Many small business owners, especially women, rely on this service to ensure they can work in their business for a full day.
“Too often, the small business owner is expected to be able to deliver and pick up from school, taking hours of productivity away from their business.”
The group celebrated the $1.2 billion plan to expand access to NBN in regional Australia, saying it could help small businesses across the country better connect to the digital economy.
Industrial relations tweaks bringing small businesses into the corporate bargaining system also won industry support, along with the $15 million investment in small business mental health and counseling support. of indebtedness.
“We warmly welcome the funding for these programs and know they will be essential in supporting our small businesses going through tough times,” Boyd said.
Australia’s Small Business and Family Business Ombudsman has outlined these concerns in its own broadly positive budget, suggesting tougher circumstances lie ahead for small business operators.
“Small family business owners are literally burnt out,” said ombudsman Bruce Billson.
“They are struggling to keep rosters running and keeping doors open due to labor and skill shortages; grappling with supply issues that mean critical inputs, goods and services are not always available, on the lookout for cybersecurity fears and some battling floods and other natural disasters.