In my role as CEO of Business SA, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for South Australia, and my former roles as Lord Mayor of Adelaide, University lecturer, GM of Rundle Mall and as a national retailer, I have always taken a keen interest in how State and Federal Governments craft their annual budgets to support those who take risks and make things happen in the economy. I am of course referring to entrepreneurs.
Over the years, I have seen some budgets hit the spot and others miss woefully.
With the vitally important 2021/22 State Budget for South Australia handed down on Tuesday 22 June, and with the end of the financial year now upon us, I reflect on what a different position the business community was in only twelve months ago.
Although many businesses were gradually returning to trade in June 2020, most were still riddled with uncertainty and hoping that last year’s State Budget would support them through the turbulence. Treasurer Lucas delivered the goods and as the peak body for business in South Australia, Business SA was grateful for it.
The bounce back following the first lockdown in 2020 was pleasantly unexpected and other than the disruption caused by a subsequent lockdown in November, business confidence has continued to build. As we learned from the results of the March 2021 Quarter of the Business SA William Buck Survey of Business Expectations, business conditions have again risen now to their highest level since just prior to the Global Financial Crisis, and business confidence was not far behind. Fingers crossed that this continues.
Although the majority of businesses are doing better than expected, the survey also revealed that 21 per cent of businesses expect for their revenues to be below 70 per cent of pre COVID levels by the end of this quarter. That’s of real concern and why the recent State Budget needed to back all businesses, with a focus on initiatives that both grow our economy and support small businesses that are still experiencing hardship.
The unfortunate reality is that this pandemic is far from over. Although on a local level, South Australia is thankfully performing well, the risk of COVID outbreaks is still front of mind for many small business owners, as demonstrated by lockdowns in Victoria earlier this month and current localised lockdowns in Sydney and several other places.
In April this year, I handed our pre-budget submission to Treasurer Rob Lucas. It included a suite of 13 recommendations from Business SA. These recommendations are far more than hours upon hours of work from my expert team, let me tell you. Instead, these are genuine pleas from our members, the coal face of the business community across South Australia.
We asked for the State Budget to address a funding mechanism to support South Australian SMEs through future periods of severe restrictions and why it MUST support the events, arts and live performance sectors who are still heavily impacted by restrictions.
We asked that temporary payroll tax waivers be extended for businesses most acutely impacted by ongoing restrictions including closed international borders, and that Adelaide’s CBD should have a bright spotlight shone upon it through a cold and dark winter, with hospitality, retail and accommodation sectors struggling to perform without international tourists and students. These things, along with a continuation of the incentives for employers taking on an apprentice and/or trainee, were mostly included in the 2021/22 State Budget. On behalf of the business community, we appreciate that.
We also hope for stronger measures in the future that enable the growth of industry, build local manufacturing capability, support jobs growth, fast track important infrastructure plans with more local procurement and capitalise on our state’s global renewable energy and circular economy leadership.
Providing there are no monumental disruptions, Business SA will host Treasurer Rob Lucas at Adelaide Oval on Friday 2 July for our State Budget Luncheon with the Treasurer presenting a detailed business briefing on the 2021/22 State Budget. This event includes a response by Shadow Treasurer Stephen Mullighan and a budget analysis by an expert business panel. Limited tickets are available at www.business-sa.com or contact my team on (08) 8300 0000 today.
As they say in show business … “The show must go on!”
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Martin Haese MBA