4 November 2023

Opinion piece: Small businesses set to benefit from skills agreement


Published in The Mercury

As Small Business Minister, I spend a lot of my time talking to small business owners in Tasmania and right across the country.

Consistently one of the key concerns they raise with me is workforce shortages.

As the National Australia Bank reported earlier this year, one in three small- and medium-sized businesses identified labour shortages as a “very significant'' issue.

And I'm happy to say that the Albanese Labor government is acting.

Last month we secured a new National Skills Agreement with the states and territories, one that will unlock billions of dollars for Australian skills.

The agreement will see our government invest up to $12.6 billion to expand and transform access to the VET sector, and support quality training.

This investment is on top of the $414 million already committed for the delivery of a further 300,000 Fee-Free TAFE places from next year.

This is going to be transformative for our small businesses – here in Tasmania, and right across the country.

Our skills agreement will help our small businesses get the workers they need to grow, with the skills they need to continue contributing billions of dollars to our economy.

This will mean more tradies. More chefs. More Australians with the skills to help us transition to clean energy, and ensure our country's digital and technology capability.

It's been welcomed by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which said the agreement “has potential to tackle Australia's crippling shortage of qualified workers”.

This is just one of the ways the Albanese government is supporting small businesses.

We're introducing the $310 million Small Business Energy Incentive. The bonus tax deduction will provide businesses with annual turnover of less than $50 million an additional 20 per cent deduction on spending that supports electrification and more efficient use of energy.

This new support will be on top of the targeted energy bill relief we are delivering to small businesses – up to $650 for about one million small businesses – in partnership with states and territories.

We're also making it easier for small businesses to invest and grow by providing $290m in cashflow support through the $20,000 instant asset write-off.

The government is also delivering the $392 million Industry Growth Program to provide advice and matched grant funding for small and medium businesses and start-ups to commercialise their ideas and grow their businesses in priority areas of the National Reconstruction Fund.

We have delivered $18.6 million to help support small businesses upskill and adapt to digital technologies though the latest round of Digital Solutions.

We are also investing $23.4 million to help small businesses build their resilience to cyber security attacks through a new Cyber Wardens program delivered by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia.

These new commitments will build on the actions we have already taken to back small business, such as mental health support and making unfair contract terms illegal.

Australia's small businesses have a government that is listening and acting.

We know how vital small businesses are to our economy, and our communities here in Tasmania and right across Australia.

We will keep listening to small businesses, and I look forward to continuing to work with them.