Intuit QuickBooks vice president of Australia, Lars Leber has welcomed new initiatives in the Budget that will benefit small businesses owners, with a special focus on female workforce participation.

“From parental leave and childcare reform that will help bolster participation in the workforce, to supporting small business with new energy efficiency grants, and extending mental health support and financial counselling programs. It is clear that business will benefit from this sober, but sensible, budget,” he said.

“We’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis and consumer confidence is waning. Economic recovery will come on the back of small business success. Small businesses are vital to the health of the Australian economy and play a pivotal role in bringing growth and innovation that enable our communities to thrive. We hope this budget gives small business owners confidence that they have the support of the government, especially in these challenging times.”

Commenting specifically on workforce shortages, Leber said, “With the country still reeling from the impact of Covid, businesses have kept a keen eye on how the government would address the skills and talent gap.

Intuit QuickBooks vice president of Australia, Lars Leber.

“The good news is tackling workforce shortages was on the agenda in this budget. From welcoming skilled workers back to our shores from expanding the visa migration system, to investing in clearing the backlog of visa applications caused by the pandemic. Closer to home, the government announced measures to help boost workforce participation for parents by expanding the paid parental leave scheme and childcare support.

“Looking to the future, investment in high demand job qualifications and free TAFE courses is set to usher in a new generation of workers, giving businesses the opportunity to fill their longer-term pipeline of talent. Increasing the skilled labour pool should give Australian businesses more confidence to plan for the future.”

Leber also welcomed the expansion of full-fibre access to 1.5 million premises by 2025 with a $2.4 billion equity boost over the next four years.

“This investment is aimed to deliver businesses, particularly in regional and rural areas, faster and more reliable access to the digital economy,” he said.

“As our lives move increasingly online, Australian small businesses must be supported to adapt and build resilience through digital transformation. Prior to the Budget, the Government announced a 20 percent tax deduction for eligible expenditure incurred on expenses and depreciating assets that support digital operations. This will be beneficial to small businesses who are looking into embracing new technologies in order to grow their business.

“Small businesses need to be given the opportunity to embrace transformative technologies like e-commerce, e-finance and e-learning. Direct incentives in the way of rebates for SMBs will ensure they can access the tools and solutions to stay ahead of the curve and compete with global competitors.”

The budget announcement demonstrates the current state of flux the Australian economy finds itself; on one hand many industries are experiencing high growth with large revenue inflows, while others continue to feel the pain of uncertainty of the last few years, according to Banjo Loans CEO, Guy Callaghan.

“The Government’s budget goes some way to provide financial and strategic commitment to ensure small to medium businesses (SMEs) are digitally enabled, resilient and have the support, incentives, skills and training needed to be competitive in an uncertain future,” he said.

“As was clearly communicated prior this was not a Budget stocking full of free gifts, but there are some schemes that will certainly help fund initiatives and measures to support SMEs, such as the $2.4 billion commitment to extending NBN full fibre access to 1.5 million homes and businesses by 2025.”   

Callaghan believes cheaper childcare and greater paid parental leave will support small businesses with the aim of increasing the available workforce to the tune of 37,000 extra workers (more than 90% of Australian businesses are SMEs).

“Pleasingly there is a focus on decreasing the skills gap we are experiencing in the labour force with funding allocated to upskilling our local workforce & tertiary education in needed areas such as care and the digital economy.  The boost to the skilled migrant program is also very welcome, but this will take time to play out,” he said.

“Investment in manufacturing to expand our industrial base and regional centres should result in positive job creation. Items like small business energy grants will all help with growth initiatives for businesses struggling with increasing power prices.

“There is inflation pressure on wages driven by increasing energy prices and groceries. The Government’s focus on investment in renewal energy will create jobs and eventually decrease prices, but again this is more a long-term plan.

“Thankfully this was not a budget that pandered fully toward the big end of town, with the of targeting multinationals to pay a fairer share of tax – a scheme that sounds good but hard to deliver.”

Slyp co-founder and CEO, Paul Weingarth believes climate-conscious business leaders across Australia will be breathing a sigh of relief at the news of Albanese’s energy efficiency grant program.

Slyp co-founder and CEO, Paul Weingarth.

“Not only will it offer respite as inflation begins to bite, but it also provides a helping hand for businesses striving to meet net-zero goals,” he said.

“The program, which offers SMBs a cumulative $62.6 million in funding to reduce energy use and lower bills, shows the new government is willing to walk the talk on environmental matters. More critically still, it gives recipients scope to invest in innovative technologies that will help to future proof their businesses.

“While this is a step in the right direction, the government needs to incentivise long-term sustainability beyond reduced energy bills. Without incentivising businesses of all sizes to curb paper production, plastic pollution or fossil fuel use, dreams of a circular economy will quickly fall out of reach. What’s more, by failing to make technologies that digititise these processes accessible for all, innovation and growth will slow and Australia will fall behind the global market.”