Federal Budget delivers cost of living relief for vulnerable Australians and small business

Australia’s peak retail body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), has welcomed a suite of measures to address the country’s cost-of-living crisis – announced in tonight’s 2023-24 Federal Budget – but warned that further support may be needed for small business amid retail’s permanent state of disruption.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said cost-of-living relief was front of mind for everyday Australians and retailers.

“We commend the government’s relief measures in these challenging times which focus on protecting our most vulnerable people and businesses. Australians are rightfully keeping a close eye on cost-of-living reprieve, but so too are retailers – with discretionary spending beginning to significantly soften in the wake of inflation and consecutive interest rate rises,” Mr Zahra said.

“If small business is the backbone of Australia’s economy, the retail community is the beating heart. Alleviating cost-of-living pressures is a vital component of economic stimulation.

“We commend the government on some smart and timely measures for small business. These include the continuation of the $20,000 instant asset write-off, energy bill relief and the new Small Business Energy Incentive to encourage investments in energy efficiency and electrification, to reduce costs and emissions in the long-term,” Mr Zahra said.

“The Small Business Energy Incentive will have positive impacts for retailers and the environment and was advocated for by the ARA pre-budget.

“However, we’re ultimately experiencing a crisis in the cost of doing business, and small businesses are bearing the brunt of this.

“Energy costs are just one of the higher costs of inputs that businesses are currently managing. Businesses need more support managing higher labour, leasing and supply chain costs as well as insurance.

“The ARA also welcomed the Government’s establishment of the Industry Growth Program, to support Australian SMEs and startups to commercialise their ideas and grow their operations.

“Retail is one of our most dynamic environments, so this will help put some exciting new ventures on the map. We’re also optimistic about the potential for existing small businesses to share in this funding.

Mr Zahra said the reforms flagged to streamline and simplify Australia’s migration system to offer long-term pathways to residency for skilled workers are being welcomed by the retail community. He said the proposed migration overhaul would help address labour and skills shortages across the sector.

“The red tape of Australia’s migration system and the barrier of expensive childcare are two leading drivers of high job vacancies. We are pleased to see the commitment to cut the cost of childcare for 1.2 million families – together these measures will have enormous benefits for retail and the broader economy.”

Mr Zahra said the increases to JobSeeker, the changes for single parents and the 15% increase in wages for Australia’s aged care workers will be welcome relief for vulnerable Australians, with flow-on benefits for the retail sector.

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