Local business support and long-term vision key to recovery says Chamber

6 October 2021

Canberra Business Chamber has welcomed an increased focus on support for small business in today’s ACT budget, but says more is still needed for this sector, which is critical to economic recovery.

New funding to support tourism, events, and the arts is badly needed and welcomed by the Chamber. But other businesses in a range of sectors will need additional financial help to survive as the economy slowly reopens over the remainder of 2021.

“There are 30,000 private businesses in the ACT,” said Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt. “The vast majority are small enterprises that are the passion and the life’s work of their owners. It is these businesses, not the public sector, that now provide over 60% of the territory’s jobs.”

“Many were hit hard by COVID-19 in 2020, then even harder again in 2021, and we have seen jobs lost and businesses closed. Now is the time to do everything possible to protect and then create jobs in the private sector. Only in this way will we drive the economic diversity, growth and local champions needed for a sustainable economy.

The budget foreshadows expenditure of $5 billion on a pipeline of infrastructure projects including “light rail stage 2 and range of smaller initiatives. While the Chamber welcomes these projects, it wants to see supporting policies to ensure that money will be spent with local companies to deliver them. “We will be missing out on the benefits if the government funds out-of-town businesses to do this work. Let’s support the investment with policies mandating local procurement,” Mr Catt said.

The announcement of $320,000 to develop a strategy to attract workers to specific industries is a welcome initiative, but the chamber warns there is much more to be done.

“We need more than a marketing plan. Articulating a future vision for the number and nature of Canberra businesses, and then planning for future workforce needs is critical. That means setting clear targets for growth across industry sectors, and developing education and training in the ACT, as well as strategies to attract skilled people in specialist areas.”

“A goal of full employment is laudable,” said Mr Catt “but skills and labour shortages are a huge problem for ACT business and a real handbrake on economic growth. Business are forced to look elsewhere for the people they need to grow, the territory misses out on potential revenue and investment, and some companies have no choice but to move interstate.”

The Chamber says that now is the time for long-term thinking about how to manage key areas like skills, education, regulation, taxation and planning to support economic growth and job creation.

“The world is changing rapidly, and Canberra is competing globally and domestically for the business investment and skills we need. Clear plans, developed through genuine engagement with industry, will be critical to our future,” Mr Catt said.

Media Contact:

Graham Catt, CEO, Canberra Business Chamber T: 02 6247 4199