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Business leaders react to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s 2020 Federal Budget

  • Written by Staff Writer


Dr Benjamin Coorey, Archistar Founder & CEO


“The R&D incentives initiative is a game changer for us because it provides the very thing that all start up businesses want - certainty. These changes are strongly supported because it means we can, as a business, confidently invest in more people to deliver innovative solutions and provide material outcomes for economic growth."






Andrew Johnson, ACS Chief Executive Officer 


“ACS is delighted to see the recognition of the importance of technology professionals in Australia’s recovery from the COVID-19 downturn with the emphasis on IT and cybersecurity in this year’s budget.


The 50,000 new higher education short courses which include IT subjects is an important part of addressing skill shortages across the Australian economy.


Coupled with this, the announcement of $240m to support female cadetships and apprenticeships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will go some way to address the under-representation of women in the ICT sector.


Along with the measures announced in last week’s advanced manufacturing and Digital Business plans, the budget lays firm foundations for a tech led recovery.”




Leica Ison, CEO of regulation technology provider Skyjed


“I welcome the Treasurer’s announcement that the government will provide $231m over four years to support economic recovery by employing more women in the workforce. The funding to increase the number of co-funded grants to women-founded start-ups, and to establish the women in STEM industry cadetship program is a fantastic step in the right direction.

 

As a female tech founder of an emerging RegTech provider of a digital product governance platform, these initiatives are refreshing and will certainly drive growth in our digital economy.

  

Australia has over 80 emerging RegTech providers supported by the RegTech Association, and if each of them plans to create around ten new jobs in next 12 months, we are well on the way to not only supporting modern manufacturing and the broad range of Australian industries (clean energy, MedTech, IoT, retail) but also to building a global RegTech export sector.

 

There is a substantial opportunity for high export potential of RegTech right at the time when our country needs it most. Global RegTech spending is predicted to exceed USD $127 billion.

 

I would however encourage the government to go harder on looking at initiatives to promote commercialisation. In Australia, a gap exists in commercialisation – after R&D when a start-up needs to find product-market fit and scale-up. Australia needs more effective incentives for this ‘cliff’ to ensure commercialisation and that jobs of the future stay in Australia.”





Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, CEO of
Coviu


"I highly commend the government’s decision to double the number of Medicare funded psychological services through the Better Access Initiative. We’ve seen a huge spike in mental health related problems since the outbreak of COVID-19, and this is projected to get worse. Better Access funds telehealth mental health consultations, and thus enables equitable access for all Australians.

 

But there are more challenges than just mental health. I would have liked to have seen a broader approach to the digitalisation of healthcare. The global pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in healthcare, yet the Federal Budget was missing any concrete indication from the government to properly see this through; the digitalisation of our system starts with a long-term pledge to the reimbursement of telehealth items. 

 

Healthcare businesses aren’t going to invest in the necessary training, hardware and infrastructure setup for digital transformation if there is no long-term commitment by the government. If Australia’s Telehealth items are not extended permanently, our healthcare system will suffer and lag behind other developed nations.

 

We all want to live in a country where quality healthcare is accessible to all, but it’s going to take more support from the government to get there. I’m hopeful that it won’t take us another pandemic to realise this."



Carl Hartmann, co-founder of HR technology platform, Shortlyster

 

"While the JobMaker Hiring Credit and the $1.2bn investment to support apprenticeships and trainees are strong initiatives to boost employment, neither of these measures holistically address employment with thousands of Australian white collar workers looking for work who could be utilised more effectively now to help further stimulate the economy. The JobMaker Hiring Credit will be paid at a rate too low to seriously help any business pay the wage of a skilled worker, of which there is high demand for amongst small to medium businesses and this ranges from everything from tech engineers, accountants, marketeers, IT and business professionals. If the government helped subsidise for a period of time NEW full or part-time wages, we could get more people back into roles and keep significant intelligence within Australia. From our own data on the Australian National Talent Registry, we’ve seen hundreds of white collar skilled applicants per advertised role, reinforcing the fact that this is a group we need to be helping back into work not just tradespeople and manufacturing.”

 

“To get Australians back to work we need to get more creative in how we view people’s skill sets. The JobTrainer package announced earlier this year is a step in the right direction for helping upskill Australians, but we need more investment in the learning and development space for programs to help job seekers transfer their skills into new industries. Helping employers identify broader skill sets that can be applied to different roles. The job market is down, but the reality is that there are still a lot of businesses operating and are very active. When they are hiring, they need to be able to screen applications for transferable skill sets and make the right hires quickly.”

 

“It is positive to see reinforced support for mental health initiatives, but this focus needs to be on preventative measures that can help support the wellbeing of Australians before it reaches crisis level. Everyone recognises that there are going to be many challenges to come for mental health support due to the knock-on effect of the pandemic and we need to address trigger points as early as possible. While support for organisations like Beyond Blue is necessary, we also need long term investment for mental health in the learning and development space to create initiatives that can be delivered at a workplace level to support the wellbeing and resilience of Australians as an ongoing priority.”




Arun Maharaj, CEO of HashChing


The expanded First Home Loan Deposit Scheme is a fantastic step in the right direction - too many people living in expensive cities have been missing out for for too long. Increasing the caps on the price of homes that can be purchased to as much as $950,000 will go a long way towards helping to kick start the building boom which is absolutely critical to our economy. 


However, it is a shame the HomeBuilder scheme was not extended. This would have been a fantastic way to rejuvenate the property market.



John Manusu, cofounder of Aegros

 

“The Federal Budget is rightly looking to stimulate the economy. It is pleasing to see that more funding for medicines is being injected into the Modern Manufacturing plan, but unfortunately, the breakthroughs we need to overcome the current pandemic will, and are coming from, the smaller companies like Aegros. It is the industries of the future we need to support/stimulate, otherwise we are merely supporting the zombie companies/industries.

 

To date, we have not seen any targeted support for Australian innovation sectors. In fact, with the cut in the corporate tax rate the R&D cash rebate has been significantly reduced. This plus the cut in innovation company grants has really cut into Australia’s innovation engine and may well explain the decrease we have seen in Australia’s productivity over the last 10 years. We are hoping, however, that the $2 billion in additional Research and Development initiatives announced yesterday will help with the future of independent Australian healthcare. 

 

Despite this, the Government still hasn't considered reactivating the SME company R&D commercial project grants, which provided up to 50% funding to cover the cost of bridging the death valley between prototypes and a commercial product. There's still much to learn for the Australian government, particularly from Israel, whereby this model of funding has been used to have successful companies repay the grant out of sales. The beauty of this approach is the funds have to be spent first before the Government co-funds. Ensuring only worthwhile projects are supported and ensuring the funds are spent and not used to pay down debts."




Barbara Hyman, CEO of Predictive Hire

 

“It is comforting and critical that the government has recognised the important need to invest in thIs younger generation. They are both the worst-affected as a group by COVID in the short term, and they are also likely to beat a larger cost of the impact of COVID on the economy and employment opportunities for the next 5 to 10 years.

 

Despite this, the investment in training only pays off if the individual has a good idea of what jobs they are best suited to. And we all know that career counseling from school and beyond is pretty much non-existent.

 

The more understanding for the kind of role and environment that brings out the best in an 18 or 25 year old, and the deeper self awareness they have about their strengths, the more ROI both the government and the individual will get from this massive investment. Scaleable career discovery should really be a part of this and the R&D backing in this year's budget should be used. That way, the hundreds of thousands of young people who are making these life career choices can do so with confidence. This technology is here now through AI-led personalised scaleable career coaching; perfect for the scale of the challenge we face in a world where face-to-face contact is becoming less necessary.”



Jason Waller, CEO of InteliCare

 

“While any increase in funding is welcomed for the aged care sector in crisis, it seems the Government’s 2020-21 budget comes without fundamental structural changes.

 

The government mentioned an increase in home care packages alone - and when we already have an average of nearly $8,000 per person unspent, and over 100,000 on the waiting list (almost as many as the 136,000 receiving a package), it does feel a bit like putting a bandaid on a shark bite.

 

Care providers are already overworked and understaffed, and Australia needs to be spending the money more effectively and efficiently. The aged care sector is already clearly in crisis so instead of adding more funding or policies to what we are already doing, we need to stop the bleeding at the source, and become preventative rather than reactive. The government should be enabling families to take charge of their own care to relieve the over-stressing and this could be achieved through technology.

 

The first contact is via general practitioners and the existing healthcare network. We need to make assistive technology MBS approved and put the power back into the hands of the individual, and save on higher cost services that are, simply put, too little too late.”



Mandeep Sodhi, CEO and founder of Effi

 

“It’s encouraging to see $2 billion injection in R&D incentives. The mortgage broking and the mortgage sector overall is rapidly digitising and this program will only help support its disruption and drive efficiency in the mortgage market. However, there’s still no support for software-based R&D activities which is going to drive the next phase of growth for Australia. AI will be the key for driving productivity of Australians and companies like Effi will be investing heavily in R&D to develop right AI solutions and compete at a global level - but this is only possible if companies like Effi can access R&D incentives easily.

 

On the other hand, tax support for businesses and incentives for hiring are also good, as they are also needed to help businesses sustain growth.”



Dirk Steller, founder of fintech VC firm Seed Space

 

“The federal government's move to invest $28.5 million in expanding Australia’s world-leading Consumer Data Right is an excellent move forward that will help Australia move closer towards realising its open banking transition. The Consumer Data Right and Open Banking is an important initiative that serves up plenty of advantages for Australian customers and will allow fintech entrants to provide new and improved products by offering data-driven insights and more compelling, tailored and personalised offerings for Australians, all of which will drive economic growth and improved customer outcomes.

 

At Seed Space, we believe that collaboration is a key driver of success and the $9.6 million proposed by the government to expand the Fintech Bridge program is a welcome initiative that builds on the government's ongoing multilateral fintech expansion initiatives that are all aimed at helping Australian fintechs grow and scale into key offshore markets such as Europe and the UK, as well as learning from international counterparts to ensure our home grown fintechs are at the operating in line with global best practice. 

 

We also strongly believe the $11.4 million for Australian regtech companies to help ease regulatory burdens is an important initiative. Regulatory technology is a fast growing industry with vast application across multiple industries, not just banking and financial services and has the potential to close critical compliance and regulatory gaps.

 

The government is also making available $6.9 million in funding for two blockchain pilots to test how the technology could be used to reduce regulatory compliance burden for businesses. This is the single biggest investment the Government has made in the sector to date and is an exciting step forward as Australia continues to deepen its footprint on blockchain standards. These pilots will complement the National Blockchain Roadmap and will allow the development of successful use cases in how blockchain can help reduce frictions and pain points right across industry verticals.” 





Bill Fry, managing director of Eve Investments

 

“The federal government has stepped up to the plate and provided critical funding support that would allow local manufacturers to continue to innovate, particularly in critical export sectors like retail and health and wellness. 

 

The R&D initiatives will be most welcome to Australian emerging companies seeking to grow and realise their export potential. With regards to this, EVE are currently working on new product development with our honey and tea tree and the development of strains of probiotic that work synergistically to maximise the gut health benefit to consumers. R&D assistance from the government in this process would enable innovation by bringing these products to market much quicker and into the hands of everyday Australians.  

 

Support will also be given to manufacturers to upgrade and improve manufacturing equipment to expand production. That is an excellent step forward as Australia embarks on its road to recovery in the face of the pandemic. At EVE, we are firmly focused on identifying new opportunities for scale, and dovetails nicely with our expansion plans for new export markets and the need to increase our manufacturing capacity. It also is a critical step in providing new employment opportunities for Australian businesses in manufacturing.”




Joe Demase, managing director of listed telco 5G Networks (ASX:5GN)

 

“The budget saw the federal government go much further in recognising what is going to be leading the engine room of the Australian economy both now and in the months ahead: small business.

 

Many SME businesses across Australia have been left ill-equipped to respond to COVID-19 and we must provide these businesses with a clear path for recovery and getting back to operating very quickly. With over 2 million SMBs across the country, accounting for more than 97 per cent of all Australian businesses by employee size, this business segment is the beating heart of this country. 

 

What we would have liked to see more is additional consideration for helping businesses in regional areas, particularly those looking to adjust to operating in a new normal and supporting their digital footprints. The message is clear: if you're in any business, you've got to be investing in digital resilience.”




Maz Zaman, co-founder of TaxFox

 

“I’m happy to see that this year's budget includes a number of great outcomes for the startup community. In particular, we welcome the $2bn boost for R&D as this is the lifeline of the tech sector and will provide greater certainty for investment and help support the development of novel technologies within Australia. 

 

The investment in the 5G network and infrastructure is another win for us as better internet means improved connectivity for startups with their employees, customers, partners and networks, ultimately speeding up growth capability. 

 

The $9.6M investment for fintechs will enhance support for businesses to expand internationally and encourage foregin investment and job creation in Australia. This initiative will help world-class fintechs in the Australian startup ecosystem become global players sooner. 

 

The investment in blockchain technology will also help support the fintech community through encouraging broader uptake of blockchain by these businesses which can help improve transparency and rescue regulatory compliance costs. This will drive down the cost of wealth advice and investments to benefit low to mid income earning households.

 

We welcome news of the personal income tax cuts which will be of great support to many founders who are working full time to support their side hustles. Tax relief will lower the cost of living and allow founders longer runways. 

 

Investment in measures to improve STEM gender equity in Australia is another positive outcome for startups as this will see startups have access to larger talent pools and new perspectives which previously impacted startups having ‘male blinkers’.”




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