Speech: Treasury Laws Amendment (Support For Small Business And Charities And Other Measures) Bill 2023

Speech: Treasury Laws Amendment (Support For Small Business And Charities And Other Measures) Bill 2023 Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (16:45): I'm absolutely delighted to rise today in support of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Support for Small Business and Charities and Other Measures) Bill 2023. In regional areas, like my electorate of Gilmore on the New South Wales South Coast, small business is what keeps the heart of our community pumping. Run by local people for local people, these businesses put in the hard yards every single day to make their communities better. They're our neighbours, our friends, our family. They often feel like family even when they are not: the local corner store, the newsagency, the grocery store, the swim school, the dairy farm, the winery, the brewhouse, the bakery, the pub—I could go on. Many started in local families, who have held onto those businesses and grown them into tourism meccas, international drawcards or just the go-to spot for local people to hang out. It didn't happen overnight, and it wasn't easy.

I grew up on a dairy farm, which is still there today—a small business that has grown. My husband, a carpenter, runs his own small business as well, as he's done for many years. I know the struggles small businesses face. I've been there as well, like so many people. That's why I am so incredibly proud to be part of a government that is working to support small businesses to grow, to diversify and to meet the challenges of a changing energy market.

We all know that energy prices have been rapidly going up, pushed by global challenges and a former government that spent a decade without a cohesive energy policy. We've seen it in our homes, and this government has worked to do what it can to bring those prices down. At the same time, we've supported eligible households with $500 in energy bill relief, a fantastic support that is helping millions of households right across Australia to deal with the cost of living.

Small businesses have probably felt this brunt more than others—no shock there. Their outputs are higher, their energy needs are higher, and so, of course, are their costs. To help them, this bill introduces the small-business energy incentive, to help small and medium sized businesses electrify and save on their energy bills. Businesses with an aggregated annual turnover of less than $50 million will  have access to a bonus 20 per cent tax deduction for eligible assets supporting electrification and more efficient use of energy from 1 July until 30 June next year. Up to $100,000 of total expenditure will be eligible for the incentive, with the maximum bonus tax deduction being $20,000. This incentive will help small businesses to make investments like electrifying their heating and cooling systems, upgrading to more efficient fridges and induction cooktops and installing batteries and heat pumps. Not only is this going to help with the upfront cost or depreciation of these assets; there will also be the long-term impact on electricity bills, helping small businesses to save in the long run as well.

It has been clear for a long time that businesses have been working to make some of these changes themselves. Small-business owners can see the benefits in upgrading their equipment, making it more modern, easier to use, easier to maintain, better on the environment and, most of all, cheaper. Of course they can. But they've spent a decade without the right government support to help them do that. That's what we are trying to do—give businesses incentives, give them support and help them deal with the global economic climate that is driving up electricity prices. As a happy bonus, this will also help to reduce their impact on the climate. Up to 3.8 million small and medium-sized businesses will be eligible. How great is that? This is just one way we are helping businesses with their energy needs.

I want to briefly touch on another program that I have been so delighted to support as part of the Albanese government, which is helping small businesses with practical support to reduce their energy costs. The Energy Efficiency Grants for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises program is a $62 million grants program designed to help businesses become more energy efficient, to ease pressure on their energy bills and to reduce emissions. The program provides grants of between $10,000 and $25,000 to SMEs in all industry sectors to help them undertake energy-saving measures such as upgrading or replacing existing air conditioners with high-efficiency units, replacing gas-heating boilers with heat pumps, or purchasing tools to monitor energy use—and more. There is so much opportunity.

I was absolutely delighted to see local businesses in my electorate of Gilmore on the New South Wales South Coast benefit from this fantastic program. Cupitt’s Estate, one of those family run tourism drawcards that I mentioned earlier, a truly beautiful winery in the Ulladulla area, has taken many steps to improve its energy efficiency and reduce its impact on the environment. I was really happy to deliver $25,000 as part of that program to Cupitt’s Estate for a compressed air system. Meadows Swim School in Nowra, another locally owned and run business, was successful under the program for a heat pump upgrade worth $25,000, which was a big help for a small local swim school. Dungowan Erowal Bay, a beautiful waterfront holiday accommodation in stunning Jervis Bay, received $25,000 to replace inefficient air conditioning units with modern high-efficiency units, helping the business, helping boost tourism and helping the environment—win, win, win. Another fascinating small business, Cyber Heroes, a podcast hosted by two local fellows giving guidance on protecting yourself from cybercrime and becoming cybersavvy, received more than $12,000 to replace non-LED lights and add automation control. This is a small business helping people around the country with one of our great modern challenges, so we're helping them.

The diversity of these recipients and what they have chosen to put the grants towards is simply fabulous and demonstrates our government's commitment to working with small business to give them the support they need now and into the future. They're just a couple of examples on the energy front of how we are supporting small and medium-sized businesses, and it's great to see this bill extending that even further.

That's not all this bill does. Another part of the changes we are introducing today is something else I know will be welcomed with open arms by local small businesses—the $20,000 instant asset write-off. Schedule 1 of this bill increases the instant asset write-off threshold to $20,000 until 30 June 2024, to improve cash flow and reduce compliance costs for small businesses. This is something we announced as part of the 2023-24 budget, and I'm delighted to see it being delivered. Small businesses with an aggregated annual turnover of less than $10 million will be able to immediately deduct eligible assets costing less than $20,000 this financial year. It will apply on a per asset basis, so businesses can write off multiple assets—simplicity, reducing red tape, as they say, and increasing cash flow when it's needed most. Music to small business ears, I'm sure. That's what we are delivering today, because we know it's what they need and want and we know that it will make a difference. Of course assets over $20,000 can continue to be placed into the small-business simplified depreciation pool, depreciated at 15 per cent in the first income year and 30 per cent each income year thereafter.

On top of support for small businesses, this bill is also supporting registered charities. The bill provides a path for up to 28 community foundations to be endorsed by the Commissioner of Taxation as deductible gift recipients, providing an incentive for donations to these foundations for the important work they do in our community. This is working towards our government's goal of doubling philanthropy by 2030.

I will always do everything I can to support local businesses, to celebrate them and to thank them for the work they do in our community. We've seen the difference small businesses make to communities. There's no better example than during the 2019-20 bushfires, when small businesses stepped up to support our recovery, donated goods, acted as community hubs, stayed open for incredible hours and were just simply there for local people and tourists alike through some of our hardest times. We thank them so much for that. In amongst all the tragedy and hardship we were surrounded with, it was a beautiful display of the true South Coast spirit, and we genuinely thank them from the bottom of our hearts for that.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our regions, and we need to do everything we can to help them through some of these hard economic times. That's what this government is doing, and this bill is just one piece of that puzzle. I am proud to be supporting it. I commend the bill to the House.