Australian small businesses are concerned about the impact of the impending Federal Election and are delaying critical business decisions, which could impact job growth and investment, according to new survey results in the Westpac Small Business Report in collaboration with Deloitte.
The report reveals 50 per cent of small businesses are worried or uncertain about the impact election policies will have on their operations, and they are choosing to delay decisions such as staffing and investment.
An estimated 40 per cent of new jobs in the economy are created by small businesses each year, which is equivalent to 107,000 jobs in 2017-18. Similarly, small businesses invest an average of around $530 million each month, so if the net effect of the election was to delay some proportion of small business investment by two months, overall investment levels could decline for that period. This is coming at a delicate moment for the wider economy with growth already slowing and drags from the housing downturn expected to intensify.
Not all businesses are curtailing activity though. According to the report, the most profitable businesses are less likely to delay decision-making, with 56 per cent stating the election does not affect their timing for hiring staff, compared to just 41 per cent of other businesses; and 58 per cent of this group do not consider the election when buying equipment compared to 40 per cent of other businesses.
Ganesh Chandrasekkar, General Manager of SME Banking at Westpac said with the increasing pace and unpredictability of change this quarter, it’s encouraging to see many small businesses adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to decision-making.
“We do appreciate not all businesses will share the same level of confidence, and that is why they’re more cautious and delaying decisions after the Federal Election,” Chandrasekkar said.
According to the report, the most helpful thing it could do to help small business is decrease energy costs, reduce regulation and red tape, and increase small business grants.
“Our customers tell us that small business tax cuts, less regulation and red tape and energy policy are a top priority in the upcoming election. The recently announced plans to fast track tax cuts for small business will offer some support; but more can be done to help particularly with grant funding,” Chandrasekkar said.
“There is a significant number of government grants available but over 40 per cent of small businesses are unaware of what’s available and almost 80 per cent say the government grant process is too difficult to navigate.”
Commenting on business conditions for 2019, Chandrasekkar said the economy is facing a more challenging year with the housing downturn expected to have a more material impact on growth with the RBA now expected to cut interest rates to cushion the slowdown.
“With the Federal Election likely to impact business decisions, 2019 is already shaping up as a trickier year for small business; it will be important we work together with government to ensure they are supported and can continue to operate with certainty.”