Rural Firms Under the Pump

Nola Marino

The effects of poor policy are felt throughout the community

Running a small business has never been easy.

But the challenges many small and family business operators are dealing with right now are weighing heavily on the shoulders of those who live and work in regional and remote areas.

In WA, the policies of State and Federal Labor governments are undermining the confidence and profitability of our small and medium businesses — the people who work their hearts out day in, day out.

For a start, the extra spending in the Federal Budget means inflation will stay higher for longer.

This forces the RBA to do the heavy lifting to contain inflation and the only tool at their disposal is interest rates.

Labor’s inaction on fiscal policy has led to 11 rate rises since being elected.

This is putting extreme pressure not only on homeowners but also small businesspeople who often mortgage the family home to get a start.

When the pinch is on, consumers tighten their belts and local businesses are the first to feel it.

Whether it’s the local deli, newsagency, clothing store or pub, the effects of poor policy are felt throughout the community.

The reality is much of this pain is coming from Canberra.

Labor’s plan to end live sheep exports is a calculated body blow to WA’s sheep industry, other directly affected sectors and all the businesses and communities that benefit from it.

Businesses such as local mechanics, shearers, feed suppliers, livestock transporters, local shops and vet practices, to mention a few.

These are the same small and family business people who support our local community organisations, sporting clubs and volunteer emergency services groups.

Right now, our communities are reeling from the unfolding debacle that is the roll out of the WA Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act and the costly and significant compliance obligations it imposes. The anxiety and concern amongst our farmers, pastoralists and so many other sectors is palpable.

The Albanese Government has also increased the heavy vehicle road user charge which is essentially a tax on everyone living in regional and remote Australia.

As we know only too well, this has a disproportionate effect on every business input and every food and grocery item in our supermarkets and local stores — in fact, everything we buy and use arrives on the back of a truck.

This comes on top of the fact that WA farmers are already the most regulated in the country, according to the Institute of Public Affairs.

A recent IPA report found WA farmers face 12 to 15 per cent more red tape than the national average, with regulatory obligations from 33 Federal or State Government agencies or departments.

We’ve seen the decision by Federal Labor to cut the instant asset write-off threshold.

This threshold was expanded to $150,000 by the Coalition.

Labor slashed it to $20,000 and limited it to businesses with turnover less than $10 million.

Many small and family businesses used this accelerated depreciation in recent years to update their machinery and equipment. It beggars belief that at a time of declining productivity, Labor would choose to hamstring our small and medium-sized businesses.

Federal Labor is also hitting our small and family farming businesses with its food and fibre tax to pay for the biosecurity risk created by international importers.

In many cases, these imports are in direct competition with local production. What a great way to thank the farmers who produce some of the highest quality food and fibre in the world.

Our regional and remote small local pharmacies are also under threat from Labor’s changes to pharmacy dispensing.

We need these pharmacies in our communities — people in regional areas already face greater challenges accessing health care.

The last thing any of us want to see is our local pharmacies being forced to close, reduce their opening hours, their staff or their services that we rely on.

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. from Labor’s aggressive industrial relations agenda to its new taxes on superannuation, rising energy costs, reduced flexibility of the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme (PALM) and increased costs with the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) to the increase in the cost of the backpacker Working Holiday Maker visa.

Let’s not forget the impact on regional and rural businesses and their communities of Labor’s 22,000 solar panels needing to be installed every day until 2030, plus 40 major wind turbines every month, as well as the tens of thousands of kilometres of transmission lines to meet its 43 per cent emissions reduction target.

We know how important small and family businesses are in our rural, regional and remote communities — clearly Federal and State Labor do not.

Nola Marino is the WA Liberals’ Forrest MP and based in Bunbury.

Source: The Countryman 27th July 2023