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South Australian SMEs lay out budget wish list

Business

Sustainability incentives, a “collaboration unit” in the bureaucracy, further tax cuts and gas efficiency audits are on the wish list for South Australian small-to-medium sized businesses as the Marshall Government frames its next budget.

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Sustainability subsidies

Andrew Pearce is the co-owner of the Hello Sarnie cafés on Pirie Street and Gawler Place.

He says customers are increasingly informed about, and interested in buying, food and drinks in biodegradable or recyclable packaging.

By the cost has stopped his business from making the switch.

He tells InDaily he would like to see Treasurer Rob Lucas introduce a program of subsidies for sustainable packaging and announce a target date for the elimination of single-use plastics in South Australia when he hands down the Marshall Government’s second budget, in June.

“We’ve been looking for alternatives for probably six to eight months (but) it looks like an extremely expensive step for a small business to take,” he says.

“If the State Government offered (subsidies) that would assist us massively.”

A small business “collaboration unit”

Pearce also wants to see the Government establish what he calls a “small business collaboration unit” within the bureaucracy to help entrepreneurs establish partnerships, learn from each other and work together to secure affordable retail and hospitality space.

He says affordable, small-scale hospitality space in the city is hard to find, and that larger spaces are sometimes available but expensive.

He says an online forum set up by government to put small businesses in touch with each other could facilitate them pitching to landlords about leasing larger spaces.

“The State Government has the keys in their hands to unlock (collaboration) for small businesses,” he tells InDaily.

“The opportunity for tenancies isn’t as easy at the moment because the space is at a premium.

“I don’t see people on this street as my competition – I see them as my allies.”

He says the “collaboration unit” could also provide small businesses with demographic data to help them expand and better cater to their customer base.

Payroll tax exemptions

Business SA executive director for industry and government engagement Anthony Penney says small businesses will be looking for more tax relief from the next budget.

In particular, he is urging the government to eliminate payroll tax on all trainees and apprentices and to increase the threshold under which businesses are exempt from the tax.

“To actually tax businesses on the more people they employ just doesn’t make sense,” he says.

“We do commend what the government announced in the previous budget about payroll tax exemptions for small businesses.

“Payroll tax exemptions for apprentices and trainees (should be applied) to encourage businesses to develop those individuals.”

Large-scale tax reform

Penney commended former Labor Premier Jay Weatherill for publicly floating the idea of broadening the GST base and argues that consumption based taxes are best suited to replace the revenue lost through payroll tax cuts.

“Business SA has long called for overall tax reform,” he says.

“Consumption-based taxes are the most efficient form of taxes (but) he political appetite (to review the GST) just doesn’t exist.”

Energy efficiency audits

He says the cost of energy is always top of mind for small business operators, and “electricity is only half of the energy equation”.

“Over the past several years we’ve seen the prices of gas triple,” he says.

“Food and beverage manufacturers (especially) use significant amounts of gas.

“What we’d like to see in the budget is a program that assists businesses to become more gas efficient.”’

“Certainty”

Mark Siora of Littlehampton Clay Bricks and Pavers says he wants to see “no major surprises” in the upcoming budget, adding “businesses like certainty”.

He says the Marshall Government is “heading in the right direction on tax cuts” and urged Lucas to stay the course.

“It’s all been fairly positive … even though things aren’t really booming,” he tells InDaily.

“The government is heading in the right direction.

“I’m definitely not in for handouts for business, but I do believe in getting the fundamentals right (so businesses can) succeed on their own.”

Former Adelaide City councillor Natasha Malani, who runs SA Leaders – a business networking and training company – agrees.

“What small to medium enterprises look for from Government is certainty,” she says.

More people, more diplomacy, more infrastructure

She says many of her clients – most of whom run businesses with a turnover of more than $20 million – struggle to find and secure certain categories of highly qualified employees and that the Government can help by encouraging population growth and building infrastructure.

“There’s no doubt a skilled labour shortage is a big issue,” she says, adding that the Government should keep pressing for improvements to SA’s trade relationships with international partners.

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