State budgets for financial restoration

The 2021 federal budget aims to keep the momentum of Australia's economic recovery going. The plans are a step in the right direction, according to industry associations, as key measures can benefit retailers, manufacturers and small businesses.

Tax measures to increase spending

Tax cuts for low and middle earners will help put more money in people's pockets to support retail spending and create more jobs.

Dominique Lamb, CEO of the National Retail Association (NRA), says measures to increase customer spend and encourage business investment are welcome additions.

"Everyday Australians now have more disposable income to spend in stores, which gives retailers an adrenaline rush," she says.

In addition, an extension of the temporary full allowance by 12 months until June 30, 2023 and an extension of the temporary loss carryforward by one year will enable companies to invest in their future.

"Local cafes, family-owned restaurants, and small clothing stores, to name a few, can now invest in business that would otherwise be unaffordable," says Ms. Lamb.

Simplification of working relationships

The federal government will spend $ 134 million over four years on its deregulation agenda, including investments in regulatory technology to help smaller employers comply with modern awards, provide data on wages and conditions, and the accuracy of payroll software to help.

The NRA commended the government for recognizing the complexity of the system and taking steps to improve compliance.

"Most people outside the sector think we are exaggerating when we say that retailers have struggled with nearly 14,000 different wage rates since 2013, depending on variables such as whether the employee is occasional or permanent, their age, classification and the time the work is carried out, ”says Ms. Lamb.

"That number doubles slightly when you factor in shift workers, bakery workers, apprentices and those who work under the supported wage system."

Women are the focus

Women are the backbone of the retail workforce, representing 68% of sales assistants and 75% of checkout operators. Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association, says there is a clear focus on women under this year's budget, with additional funding for programs on women's health and domestic violence.

"The $ 1.7 billion childcare package is also significant," he says.

"This gives working mothers more choice and adds more money to the family budget each week. This is a good result for Australian families, retailers and the wider economy."

The federal government will also lift the current minimum income threshold of $ 450 per month, below which workers will not need to receive their employer's pension guarantee. This measure aims to improve equity in the superannuation system by expanding the superannuation guarantee cover for cohorts with lower incomes.

"This will give a much-needed boost to people's super accounts – especially women, who traditionally have fewer retirement assets than men," says Zahra.

"The Retirement Income Review estimated that around 300,000 people would receive additional pension guarantee payments each month, 63% of whom are women."

Digital economy

The federal government has allocated $ 1.2 billion to the digital economy strategy, an important step towards increasing productivity and securing future prosperity. The investment will also support employment growth as future retail skills become more technology and science-based, says Zahra.

"Consumers are now expecting retailers to meet them" where they are "through consistent, seamless omni-channel interactions – and that includes companies that are clear and committed to digital media."

He says the migration to online, encouraged by people who work from home during the pandemic, is permanent.

"It's part of an acceleration in trends that we've seen over the past 12 months and that will continue to evolve for years and decades to come," he says.

"It is important that companies, especially small businesses, have the skills and knowledge they need to keep pace with the rapid rate of innovation and new and emerging consumer trends."

The competence focus benefits production

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) welcomed the government's focus on job creation and support for skills development.

Tanya Barden, CEO of AFGC, says policies that encourage investment in new skills and capital goods have the potential to provide a structural boost to Australian food and grocery manufacturing. This would also make it a powerhouse for innovation, employment and export growth.

"I am pleased with a budget that will support business growth by extending temporary full charges (immediate asset depreciation) by one year," she says.

"However, we urge the government to continue building this so that companies with longstanding assets in Australia can access this incentive."

Ms. Barden also welcomed the digital economy strategy which focuses on capabilities for the future including artificial intelligence (AI).

“Skills like robotics, virtual reality, 3D printing, AI, and predictive analytics are advanced skills we need to meet our growing capabilities,” she says.

"Other measures, including extending the JobTrainer program and promoting apprenticeships, will also support the skill growth our industry needs to continue growing, innovating and opening up new export markets," says Barden.

Small business trailblazer

The budget includes several new, expanded, and expanded measures to support small businesses.

Australian Small and Family Business Ombudsman Bruce Billson says the measures are a clear confirmation that small and family businesses are central to the country's economic recovery and future prosperity.

"The budget represents a significant financial and strategic commitment to making Australia the best place to start, grow and transform a business," said Billson.

"These measures will help small and family businesses as they help fuel our national economic recovery and play a vital role in securing our future prosperity."

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