Category Archives: Media Release

The Political Leaders Election Forum

More than 100 leading Chamber businesses tuned in to the Business Chamber’s “Political Leaders Election Forum”, a members-only event, in which the leaders of the Canberra Liberals and ACT Labor were invited to spell out their major initiatives to revive jobs, employment and growth in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

The event featured Chief Minister Andrew Barr and the Leader of the Opposition, Alistair Coe.

Chamber CEO Graham Catt said that, “Our recent consultations and virtual member forums has shown that many businesses are looking for immediate, direct support to stay open; clarity of government intentions in regards to operating conditions under Covid; and a sympathetic ear to their problems.”

“So we know what local businesses need and are asking for. Many of these were spelt out in our election manifesto, which we released last week.

“Unfortunately, whilst the leaders tonight were strong on rhetoric and generalized statements, both major parties seem somewhat short of specifics.”

Both leaders were also grilled about a range of issues from the audience, focusing on regulations, commercial rates, education and skills.

Watch the recording of the full event below:

The Chamber’s election manifesto can be found here.

Special thanks to Encore and Canberra Airport for sponsoring the event.

Singapore Airlines Withdrawal A Canary In A Coalmine

Singapore Airlines’ decision today to permanently withdraw flights between Canberra and Singapore is indicative of the large and growing challenges the ACT faces, local business groups have warned today. They have called for political leaders to commit to appointing a Minister for Business.

In the wake of the airlines’ announcement, business leaders have urged all sides of politics to get on with the task of protecting the local economy. They say more needs to be done, and done now.

“There are mounting warning signs now taking place that the ACT economy is heading into long-term damage,” Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt said today. “Singapore Airlines have withdrawn from Canberra. We now have the 3rd highest rate of payroll job unemployment in the country. And last week international ratings agency Standard & Poor’s supported Master Builders concerns that the ACT government will probably fail to deliver about 20 per cent of its projected infrastructure work. These are all lead indicators of looming long-term problems. The canary in the coalmine is singing loud and clear.”

Australian Hotels Associations CEO Anthony Brierley echoed these concerns. “We are now being hit by major shocks that are threatening both large and small businesses across the city. Jobs are being lost and existing support measures are insufficient. Government processes and decisions are not delivering results. The result? Jobs are being lost and businesses are being damaged severely. Long-term investment by private firms now risks becoming pointless.”

Business leaders are calling for a number of immediate actions. “If we had a single Business Minister devoted full-time to the business of promoting business in the ACT, that would help,” Property Council of Australia (ACT division) Executive Director Adina Cirson said. “One person leading a team of dedicated government officials focussed solely on assisting businesses, and available every day to talk to the business community. We don’t have that at present, and no party seems to be offering it.”

Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkin said, “We need the next ACT Government to engage closely with industry and community stakeholders to urgently address this problem. We are competing globally for scarce private sector investment, and the ACT Government should be prioritising local job creation in the post-COVID economic recovery.”

“Recover, Re-Energise and Reform.” Business Chamber Launches Election Manifesto

Download the Election Manifesto pdf

Canberra Business Chamber has called on the ACT’s political leaders to commit to a 20-point program that will drive economic recovery, upskill and provide jobs for Canberrans, and, and make it easier for ACT businesses to start, grow and compete.

Launching the Chamber’s priorities for the October 17th poll, Chamber CEO Graham Catt said that the private sector that can now provide the pathway to economic recovery, deliver jobs and create new opportunities after the impact of Covid.

“This year’s elections are the opportunity for parties to demonstrate their commitment to local businesses and to creating local jobs.”

Amongst the twenty points, the Chamber is calling for:

  • A comprehensive economic recovery plan
  • More support for new and emerging industry sectors, like cyber security
  • Major infrastructure investments and local precinct improvements
  • Clear future population targets and a skills strategy
  • A Minister for Business within Cabinet
  • A freeze on any increases in commercial rates
  • Changes to making it easier for local business to procure ACT Government contracts
  • More small business programs to improve digital skills, provide business advisors, and support business owners’ mental health and well-being

“While last week’s announcement by the Chief Minister partially addresses some of these issues, much, much more needs to be done.

“Our ideas have been drawn up after extensive consultation with businesses, community groups, and industry bodies over the past three months. Our policies are based on those discussions, and we’re now working closely with other business groups and community groups to ensure they are implemented.”

Mr Catt urged all Canberrans to think carefully as they marked their ballot papers. “Two thirds of working Canberrans are employed by the private sector. Will our government for the next four years help small business, create real jobs, and diversify our economy for the future? Think about it before you vote.”

The full election manifesto document can be downloaded here.

Time to return to the office

Canberra businesses are calling out for ACT office workers to go back to their city offices.

As Covid restrictions are eased in Canberra, business leaders say that it’s time for more workers to head back to office to support small business and the economy. ACT public servants can lead the way by working once more from their offices in Civic, Belconnen and other parts of the city.

“Getting back into the office is a simple yet powerful way to help local business across the ACT,” Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt said today.

“The best way to support business is through genuine demand for goods and services. When public servants and others are in the office, their daily spending provides an important boost to local cafes shops, restaurants, retail stores, transport providers and many other businesses.”

Australian Hotels Association CEO Anthony Brierley echoed the call. “While employees may enjoy the flexibility of working from home, the reality is that these arrangements are a drag on the local economy and on struggling small businesses.  Continuing a broad-brush working-from-home policy jeopardises the ability of the daytime hospitality industry to work at all.

“Returning to offices would provide a powerful economic boost for our city, and comes without any expense to the ACT Government.”

The Property Council recently surveyed its members and estimated that just over 40% of offices are occupied at the moment.  “This low rate of workers back in the city is significantly impacting many of the businesses on ground floors of office buildings, in particular those who rely on public servants for trade.  With many of our landlords giving significant rent abatement to these small businesses, the broad brush approach to remain working from home is taking money out of the economy and affecting everyone,” ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia, Adina Cirson, said.

The Master Builders Association also backed the call. “Canberra’s jobs now and in the future are in the private sector,” Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins said, “so we need to ensure that they are strongly supported wherever practical by our territory government. This is a simple, safe measure which will help many of our businesses to survive, and to keep employing other Canberrans in jobs.”

Growing Unemployment Leads to Business Groups’ Call for a COVID Economic Recovery Plan

Growing Unemployment Leads to Business Groups’ Call for a COVID Economic Recovery Plan

ABS Labour Force data released today reveals the extent of the ACT’s growing unemployment crisis, with 11,228 Canberrans now unemployed.

ABS Labour force data shows that July’s unemployment rate for July 2020 is 4.6% compared with 3.5% in July 2019.

In response, four leading Canberra business groups, who collectively represent the employers of 235,000 Canberrans, have today written to the Chief Minister, calling on him to outline an economic recovery plan in his upcoming ACT economic statement later this month.

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt said, “Today’s ABS data shows that the ACT’s unemployment rate in July 2020 is 4.6%, which is 1.1% higher than twelve months ago.”

“With around two thirds of Canberrans working in the private sector, the greatest economic impact of the COVID recession is on the ACT’s 30,000 small and family businesses,” he said.

Mr Catt said, “Adding to the stress on local business owners is uncertainty about the ACT Government’s economic recovery plan.”

Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins said, “Since 14 March around 1,000 Canberran’s have lost their jobs in the construction sector, which is Canberra’s second largest private sector employer.”

“A long-term capital works plan which boosts local construction jobs and provides infrastructure to support our long-term growth is urgently needed,” he said.
Property Council ACT Executive Director Adina Cirson said, “The property and construction sector contributes around 60% of Territory taxes and charges. Without a clear economic plan, which prioritises planning reform, tax relief and a plan for population growth, jobs will be lost and the Territory’s revenue source will continue to decline, leading to a long term financial crisis for the next Territory Government.”

Australian Hotels Association ACT Executive Director Anthony Brierley said, “Our members are suffering more than most at the moment with ACT restrictions hitting our industry hard.”

“The Government needs to develop a strategic plan for economic recovery so that the hospitality industry can bring back stood-down workers, and come to acceptable agreements with banks, finance providers and landlords,” he said.

Mr Catt said, “At the core of our request is the need for a business-friendly government which supports a private sector led economic recovery for the ACT.”
“We consistently hear from local businesses about the difficulty of running a small business in Canberra, which has been made more difficult for many COVID recession,” he said.

“Business-friendly policies which support job creation, infrastructure spending, tax reform, targeted population growth, planning reform, direct subsidies and industrial relations reform need to be urgently prioritised.”

Canberra businesses return to COVID-safe networking


Friday, 31 July 2020

Canberra businesses return to COVID-safe networking

Canberra’s business community has welcomed a return to business networking, after a 4-month hiatus due to COVID-19.

The Canberra Business Chamber and Canberra Southern Cross Club worked together to develop a model that allows businesspeople to interact while following strict COVID safety measures.

80 Canberra Business Chamber members attended the sold-out Business After Business Networking on Thursday evening.

Chamber CEO, Graham Catt said that “networking is, and will always be, an important way for businesses of all types to build their supply chains and customer base.”

“We’ve learned how to leverage technology so that people can interact, but we know that the safe return of face-to-face networking is a priority for many in business. In fact, a recent chamber poll showed that over 90% of our members had a strong desire to return to face-to-face business events.”

The event followed strict COVID safety rules and regulations. Guests could only consume food and drink while seated, and mingled at a safe 1.5 metre distance by using “discussion pods” and rotating “speed dating style” regularly throughout the evening.

Chamber member, Canberra Southern Cross Club, hosted the event in their newly refurbished “Top of the Cross” event space – their first event post COVID-19.

Ian Mackay, CEO of the Canberra Southern Cross Club said, “we were delighted to host the Business Chamber in our newly refurbished function space. Whilst zoom and other video conferencing has been useful, there is nothing like the opportunity to interact with friends and colleagues in the same room.”

“Our COVID safety plan was meticulously developed to help ensure the safety of our guests and included temperature checks on entry, recording of customer details for contact tracing and appropriate social distancing measures. We were fortunate our large spaces and well-developed Club procedures allowed us to bring the Canberra Business Chamber back together.”

Canberra Business Chamber welcomes new report on COVID recovery for business


Monday 22 July 2020

Canberra Business Chamber welcomes new report on COVID recovery for business

The Canberra Business Chamber has welcomed a new report from the National Australia Bank (NAB). The report finds that SMEs are held back by unnecessary burdens and outlines an eight-point approach to reforms that will make it easier for businesses to start, survive, and provide jobs.

The “Supporting Economic Recovery – What We Can Do for Small Business” report, commissioned by NAB, found that small business continues to struggle with industrial relations, regulation and charges, instead of focusing on the growth of the enterprise.

“The best way to rebuild the ACT economy post-COVID is through a vibrant and growing business sector,” Chamber CEO Graham Catt said today. “This NAB report clearly shows, however, that it is far more difficult than it should be for owners to build and grow a successful small business.”

The report finds that state and territory governments play a major role in making it easy or difficult to start, run and grow a business. (p 20) It ranks the ACT as one of the least business-friendly environments, when compared to NSW and the other states and territories. (p22)

“Many of the issues the NAB report highlights are the same as those that Chamber members identified in a series of in-depth forums which we convened last month.

“For example, the ACT has only one level of government, but we have the longest approval times in the country for businesses to receive all the permits and registrations they need. (p31). We also have the highest rate of payroll tax in the country. (p29)

“Business survival is important. The ACT has one of the highest rates of new business formation in the country, but we also have one of the greatest rates of new business failure.”

“We need businesses to grow so that they can provide more jobs for Canberrans” said Mr Catt. “But we can’t encourage more entrepreneurs if our laws, regulations, and taxes make it difficult for them to survive, much less succeed.”

“With a Territory election coming up in just three months, Canberra businesses are looking to the ACT government to turn that around. Business is ready to drive the ACT’s economic recovery. By removing unnecessary obstacles, we have a real opportunity to support their growth and help ensure we have jobs for all Canberrans into the future.”

World Small Business Day: Canberra business numbers reach a new milestone

On World Small Business Day 2020, Canberra reaches an important milestone. More than 30,000 private sector businesses now operate across the city – an increase of 5% over the past year. The majority of these enterprises are small, but together they employ nearly two-thirds of Canberra’s workforce.

To recognise the importance of small businesses, the United Nations has designated 27 June each year as Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Day. The day recognises and celebrates the important contributions small and microbusinesses around the world make to job opportunities and prosperity in local communities. According to the International Council of Small Business, these companies account for 60% to 70% of total employment and 50% of global GDP.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest Counts of Australian Business publication shows that the ACT had 30,050 businesses formally operating within its borders during the last financial year.

This is the largest number of private companies we’ve ever had in the city’s history. In fact, during the 2018-19 financial year, the ACT had the highest rate of new business creation in the country! That’s a great achievement to celebrate on World Small Business Day.

Retail turnover in the ACT increased at almost twice the national rate, growing by 4.7% last year; and residential construction growth helped to support our building industry at a critical time when the sector struggled nationwide.

However, this year’s World Small Business Day will be bittersweet as we take the opportunity to recognise that small businesses around the world have been hit hardest by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The unprecedented health measures enacted to contain the spread of the virus have resulted in supply chain disruptions and a massive drop in demand.

While we should celebrate the growth of the private sector and ACT economy, our small businesses are facing tough times ahead. The last seven months have been especially difficult as so many were severely affected by bushfires, smoke, hail damage and now COVID-19.

However, we know that small business owners are resilient, and over the past few months we’ve seen them innovate and improvise, against all the odds, to support their people, customers, and communities. This year we need all Canberrans to shop and buy local to help our fellow Territorians in business, as well as seek help for small businesses from the territory and federal governments.

Post-COVID cyber hygiene key for business

cyber security - laptop
cyber security - laptop

Thursday, 11 June 2020


Post-COVID cyber hygiene key for business

ACT businesses are gathering today for a virtual workshop on the critical issue of cyber security, delivered in partnership by the Canberra Business Chamber and AustCyber.

The new business landscape, after a large-scale transition to remote working, incorporates new work practices and greater reliance on digital infrastructure. The importance of maintaining business cyber hygiene, especially in terms of up-skilling staff and data management and protection, is greater than ever.

“As businesses grapple with post-COVID realities, the focus is shifting from access to support and survival to mitigating the risks attached to new business models and ways of working,” said Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt.

“So many people moved rapidly to working at home, and also to socialising online, often using the same devices and accessing a number of software platforms without formal training” Mr Catt said. “Small to medium businesses are now actively looking for support so that they can better understand and manage their risks.”

AustCyber CEO, Michelle Price said malicious cyber activity is a complex challenge for Australian business and having good cyber security practices is key to manages the risks – and by being a more trusted organisation, business can underscore future growth opportunities.

“Today’s workshop is a practical way for Canberra business to make a start on improving their cyber security and connect with experts in the field. Having the means to manage cyber risks in your organisation, and ensure your suppliers and partners are not exposing you to unnecessary cyber risk, is critical.

“When you have staff working remotely, or in a hybrid arrangement between the office and home, protecting your organisation and people from cyber attack is more important than ever.”

Featuring local expert presenters from Terra Schwartz, FifthDomain, Ionize and Cybermerc, the workshop will provide crucial information and guide businesses through this accelerated digital transformation, whether they operate locally or internationally.

Using virtual breakout room technology, the workshop will feature three streams to give businesses the tools they need to become cyber secure:

  • Cyber Health 101 – Active discussion on what to do to increase your business cyber resilience with simple practical actions
  • Cyber Skills Uplift – How to recognise cyber threats, maintain cyber resilience and upskill your employees
  • Threat Protection – Defensive and offensive strategies for having a more robust, cyber resilient business

Media Contacts:

  • Graham Catt, CEO, Canberra Business Chamber | E: | T: 02 6247 4199
  • Tom Finnigan, Media, Public Relations and Engagement Manager, AustCyber | E: | M: 0408 867 367

Media Release: Canberra Business Chamber says more support is needed for ACT business survival

sorry we're closed by still awesome sign
sorry we're closed by still awesome sign

Monday 23 March 2020


Canberra Business Chamber says more support is needed for ACT business survival

As “non-essential” businesses across the ACT take steps to shut down, more support will be needed to help businesses survive in the longer term, the Canberra Business Chamber said today.

“New restrictions that shut down “non-essential services” businesses such as clubs, hotels and restaurants will decimate an industry that has been dealing with a severe downturn for months,” said Chamber CEO Graham Catt. “There’s no way to sugar coat this, the business support measures that have been announced, while welcome, won’t go far enough for the tourism and hospitality industry, and the many small businesses that supply them.”

“Furthermore, targeted financial support will be needed,” said Mr. Catt. “Businesses can’t pay staff when there are no customers and no money coming through the door. We welcome Government assistance to help businesses keep their people, but now we have to face the difficult reality that we cannot save every business or every job.”

The Chamber said that, for many businesses, Government support for “mothballing” may be the best way to help survival.

“A local retailer might need to close their doors temporarily and be given support so that they can be reinvigorated when the health crisis is over,” said Mr. Catt. “To recover from this crisis, we’ll need businesses to still exist in some form and scale up quickly to provide the jobs, and goods and services we need”.

Canberra businesses, like the community as a whole, are facing an unprecedented crisis.

“Nearly two thirds of Canberrans in jobs are employed by the private sector,” said Mr. Catt. “Businesses and their people need information, options and flexibility to make the best decisions during this period. And the support measures announced by both the Federal and ACT Governments must flow urgently to help keep as many businesses as possible afloat.”

Media Release: ACT stimulus welcome, but more will be needed says Canberra Business Chamber

man in workshop
man in workshop

Friday, 20 March 2020


ACT stimulus welcome, but more will be needed says Canberra Business Chamber

The Canberra Business Chamber has welcomed the ACT Government’s announcement of a $137 million dollar stimulus package for the local economy. It has however warned that more stimulus measures may need to be fast tracked to support businesses and protect jobs.

“The ACT private sector provides almost two thirds of Canberra’s jobs,” said Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt. “Many businesses have been suffering from a severe downturn in trade since last December. Bushfires, smoke pollution and hailstorms have already taken a heavy toll economically and on mental health”.

A meeting of the Chamber’s Kindred members, including ACT industry and community groups, was convened on Wednesday 18 March 2020. “Our industry body and community group members made it clear that the impact of COVID-19 is accelerating rapidly, with new challenges facing their members each day,” said Mr. Catt.

The Chamber welcomed initiatives such as the deferral of payroll tax, rebates on commercial rates and targeted support for sectors such as hospitality, and believes these will offer some much-needed relief. But with business and community confidence at an all-time low, more support may be urgently needed.

“Businesses are telling the Chamber they need immediate financial support to survive, or they’ll have no choice but to lay off staff or even close down,” Mr. Catt said. “The initial stimulus package is welcome and will help the local economy, but the reality is many small businesses have been struggling for months and they are desperately looking for immediate and direct financial assistance”.

Mr. Catt concluded by saying, “We appreciate the steps the ACT Government has taken to engage with the business sector in developing this initial support package. The Chamber and the business community will continue to work with government so we can respond swiftly and as needed over what will be challenging weeks and months ahead”.