Budget gets a thumbs-up from business. PHOTO: ALLAN LEIBOWITZ
The business sector has largely welcomed the Federal Budget, with Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO James Pearson saying policy is heading in the right direction.
In particular, the Chamber has welcomed personal and business tax cuts, the extension of the instant asset write-down for small businesses for a further year and investment into greater connectivity between cities and regional Australia.
However, Pearson is disappointed about the limited funding for Skilling Australia, the "negative targeting of the research and development tax incentive" and a lack of greater ambition for budget repair.
"Overall, this is a positive budget - but it leaves Australia more exposed than we would like to any deterioration in the global economic environment.
"It underlines the need to encourage the business community to invest, create wealth, and employ - in order to provide the stable foundations for the economic growth on which the budget forecasts depend," he concludes.
Innes Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, also believes the Budget will "give business and the community confidence for the future and is cause for optimism".
The very significant tax contribution this year from business has created room to move on tax relief, infrastructure and deficit reduction, he adds.
"The new infrastructure projects sensibly focus on relieving and improving our national transport systems. However, when added to the huge defence infrastructure spend and new growth in the mining sector, more needs to be done on delivering the skills our economy desperately needs. There is clearly room for more investment in skills than is planned. Before the Budget, we already needed to add 915,000 workers to our economy by 2022. This includes an extra 120,000 in the construction sector alone. These numbers will now jump further."
The infrastructure boost has also been welcomed by the Australian Logistics Council which says key freight infrastructure investments will help lay the groundwork for smooth implementation of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.
"ALC is particularly pleased by the commitment of $400 million for the duplication of the freight rail line at Port Botany, as called for in ALC's 2018-19 Commonwealth Budget Submission," says ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff.
"ALC also welcomes the investment being made in Queensland's North Coast Rail Line, which will help assist freight rail efficiency in that state."
Urban road congestion is not just an irritation for commuters in Australia's major cities, but it has an enormous impact on the efficiency and cost of road freight movement, he adds.
"However, ALC regrets that the Government has not taken the opportunity to establish a dedicated Freight Strategy and Planning Division within the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities. Such a body is essential to ensure that the movement of freight is effectively monitored, analysed and prioritised in policy-making," Kilgariff says.
The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has also thrown its support behind Federal Budget measures which have the potential to improve the safety and efficiency of the road transport industry.
"Spending to reduce congestion in our cities has the potential to reduce expensive delays for operators, particularly in terms of the frustrating last mile access to ports, airports and freight hubs," says NatRoad CEO Warren Clark.
"We would like to ensure that this funding is accompanied by a commitment from state and local governments to improve road access for high productivity and oversize/overmass vehicles. We know permit delays and differences between jurisdictions cause unnecessary confusion and costs for road transport operators."