Supporting small business during and post COVID-19 – Questions Without Notice

Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia) (14:05): My question is to Senator Cash, the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business. How is the Morrison government extending support to help Australia’s 3.5 million small and family businesses get through the COVID-19 crisis as the economy begins to reopen and recover?

Senator CASH (Western Australia—Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business) (14:05): I thank Senator McLachlan for the question. As we on this side, the government side, of the chamber know, small and family businesses are indeed the backbone of the Australian economy. What we also know is that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on small and family business and on the Australian economy.

The Morrison government is committed to supporting Australia’s small businesses as the economy reopens and the coronavirus health restrictions continue to be eased. The instant asset write-off gives small and family businesses the ability to improve their cash flow by bringing forward tax deductions. In 2017-18 alone, around 368,000 small businesses utilised the instant asset write-off to invest in their businesses. What this enabled them to do was reinvest in assets for their businesses—including tractors, vans, equipment, machinery and tools, to name but a few—that are essential in helping their businesses to expand, grow and ultimately employ more Australians.

As the economy reopens following the COVID-19 restrictions, schemes like the instant asset write-off will be crucial in giving these businesses the support that they need, and it’s for this reason that yesterday the Treasurer and I announced that the government had extended the $150,000 instant asset write-off for six months, until 31 December 2020. Australian businesses with an annual turnover of under half a billion dollars will now be able to take advantage of this extended time frame to support their businesses to continue investment that they had planned and to encourage them to bring forward investment to support their businesses to grow.

This, of course, builds on the substantial policy investment that the government has made to support our small and family businesses in Australia.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McLachlan, a supplementary question.

Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia) (14:07): How has the government’s COVID-19 economic response package helped small and family businesses to remain resilient and support their employees through this unprecedented economic crisis?

Senator CASH (Western Australia—Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business) (14:08): As Senator McLachlan would be aware, the government has put in place a range of policies. They are targeted and proportionate measures to support both the economy and, of course, the backbone of the economy: small and family business. A total of $260 billion, equivalent to 13.3 per cent of our GDP, is being injected into the economy. This includes the JobKeeper payment, which will support around 3.5 million workers, maintaining a worker’s important connection with their employer. Over half a million businesses are now accessing around $10 billion in assistance from the cash flow boost measure. Over 22,400 employers are being supported to retain almost 40,000 apprentices through our apprentice wage subsidy, and around 13½ thousand businesses are receiving around $1.3 billion in loans through the SME guarantee statement.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McLachlan, a final supplementary question.

Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia) (14:09): What additional support is the government providing for small businesses in need of assistance as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19?

Senator CASH (Western Australia—Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business) (14:09): The government has announced that it will be providing over $4.7 million to the Rural Financial Counselling Service to support small regional businesses facing hardship during COVID-19. As Senator McKenzie is well aware, this additional support for our regional communities is set to benefit hundreds of small businesses. What this funding will do is assist small businesses to access the immediate assistance they need to assess their financial position; identify their options; and implement plans to keep afloat, improve their long-term financial viability and navigate that road to recovery.

The government has also established a professional services fund to ensure businesses can access specialist third-party advice such as financial planning, specialist taxation, legal and accounting. And this, of course, is part of the assistance in terms of the government’s $1 billion COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund.

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