The Illawarra Business Chamber has welcomed measures within today’s budget aimed at improving conditions for small businesses, addressing workforce shortages and upgrading the region’s transport connectivity.
Measures to increase the payroll tax threshold and cover the cost of coursework for apprentices show that small businesses had finally been listened to on these crucial pressure points.
A number of key infrastructure projects funded in the budget will also help alleviate the region’s transport connectivity constraints, including the Shoalhaven Bridge at Nowra, signalling improvements for the T4 Illawarra and T8 Airport lines and Stage 1 of the F6 Extension.
Illawarra Business Chamber Executive Director Adam Zarth said that while some key priority infrastructure projects remained unfunded, the budget will ease business conditions and build capacity in the economy.
“We’ve welcomed the government’s decision to lift the payroll tax threshold from $750,000 to $1 million over the next four years, and we fought hard for it because it will ease the tax burden on the average small business and allow them to employ an additional two staff they otherwise wouldn’t,” said Mr Zarth.
“Similarly, providing free apprenticeships will go a long way to building skills capacity in our state to meet the needs of our growing economy and our region’s road infrastructure program.”
“Rail connectivity remains an issue for the Illawarra and while we will continue to build the case for the South West Illawarra Rail Link (SWIRL), which has not yet been adopted by the government, the budgeted signalling improvements for the T4 Illawarra and T8 Airport lines will deliver welcome performance improvements when they come online from the early 2020s.”
“Funding to start the F6 Extension is a good start, noting that Stages 2 and 3 should follow as soon as possible, and there has been a win for Shoalhaven businesses with the state’s commitment to complete the funding of the Nowra Bridge.”
“There is also a need to address road connectivity to our north, with our recent road survey conducted with the NRMA concluding that the Mount Ousley Interchange and Widening project, together with the Princes Highway Upgrade at Bulli Tops both need to be completed by 2025 and 2028 respectively. It was pleasing to see planning money for both in this budget.”
“I would highlight the need for the government to urgently consider the recommended upgrade of Picton Road to a four-lane highway, which was missed in the budget and needs to be completed when it reaches capacity in 2025.”
BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS FOR BUSINESS
FUTURE PRIORITIES (not funded)
- Payroll tax threshold. Threshold lifted from $750,000 to $850,000 in 2018/19 and to $1 million by 2021/22.
- TAFE apprenticeships. Course fees to be met by NSW Government. Funding of $285 million over the forward estimates.
- Commitment to F6 Extension. Stage 1 to be complete by 2024. Estimated total cost of $2.2-$2.6 billion.
- Albion Park Rail Bypass. To be delivered by 2020. Funding in 2018-19 of $65.6 million to commence construction. Estimated total cost of $630 million.
- Berry to Bomaderry Princes Highway upgrade. $101 million to commence construction. Estimated total cost of $450 million. Delivery timeframe to be confirmed.
- Improvements to the South Coast Line. $880 million investment in technology improvements across the rail network, including the T4 Illawarra Line, which will boost the number of trains that can use the line by up to 30 per cent once complete.
- Batemans Bay Bridge replacement. $30 million to continue to Batemans Bay Bridge replacement.
- Princes Highway safety program. $8.8 million to develop a new program.
- Joint-funding of the Nowra Bridge. ($155 million to match the Commonwealth contribution made in May). Expected funding of $15.3 million in 2018-19 to continue planning work. Estimated total cost of $310 million.
- Freight rail upgrades to the South Coast Line (Berry to Bombaderry). $40 million to increase weight limit to 25 tonnes from the Fixing Country Rail Program.
- Shellharbour Hospital redevelopment. Estimated total cost of $251 million. Funding in 2018-19 of $35.5 million.
- Bulli Hospital Aged Care Centre of Excellence. $12.7 million to continue development.
- Realignment of the Princes Highway at Dignams Creek. $8.8 million to progress work.
- Business Connect. $30 million, with $7.6 million (of $30 million total) in FY 2018-19, to provide State-wide business advice and skills training to help businesses establish and grow.
- Access to Finance for small business. $46 million in 2018-19 allocated to continue a suite of grants and loan products delivered by Jobs for NSW, as well as facilities such as the Sydney Start-up Hub.
- “Easy to do business” initiative. $37 million to expand the initiative.
- Parking fines. The ten most common parking fines issued by the NSW Government will be reduced by 25%.
- Mt Ousley Interchange and Widening. $3 million committed to continue planning in FY 2018/19. Estimated total cost of $220-330 million*.
- Upgrade Princes Highway at Bulli Tops. $4.7 million committed to continue planning in FY 2018/19. Estimated total cost of $65-80 million*.
- South West Illawarra Rail Link (SWIRL). Estimated total cost of $1.7 billion in 2016-17 dollars*.
- Upgrading Picton Road to a four-lane separated highway. Estimated total cost of $180-220 million*.
- F6 Extension Stages 2 and 3. Estimated total cost of $8.6-10.4 billion*.
*Figures provided by Illawarra Business Chamber/Illawarra First.