Calls to support SA businesses with energy bill relief and more

The SA Business Chamber has released its full state budget submission and called on the government to help small businesses, including support for rising energy costs.

Apr 16, 2024, updated Apr 16, 2024
Photos: Jacob King/PA Wire; Russell Freeman/AAP; Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Photos: Jacob King/PA Wire; Russell Freeman/AAP; Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

A call to fund and double the existing $650 energy rebate provided to businesses to assist with rising energy costs is one of the headline submissions from the South Australian Business Chamber ahead of the upcoming 2024/25 state budget.

Released today, the full submission called on the state government to continue the existing energy rebate program for small businesses in the state, and double it to $1300 “given the continuously escalating electricity costs”.

The Chamber points to its own research which found that most small businesses in the state experienced “significant electricity bill increases in the past 12 months”.

Of the respondents to the Chamber’s December quarter Survey of Business Expectations, 27.3 per cent said energy bills had increased by 21-30 per cent. Further, 13.3 per cent said energy bills rose by 31-40 per cent in the last 12 months, while 7.7 per cent said energy bills were 41-50 per cent more expensive over the year.

“In December 2023 – after the introduction of the last rebate, 60 per cent of businesses reported their energy prices had risen by 21 per cent or more,” the Chamber’s submission reads.

“The problem is getting worse and the issuance of an energy rebate for businesses is even more justified in the upcoming budget than last financial year.”

Other submissions included calls for environmental, social and governance (ESG) training programs, noting that large businesses and financial institutions will need to commence mandatory climate-related disclosures from the 2024/25 financial year, but small businesses will be impacted too according to the Chamber.

“The system has been designed to use data from their supply chains, which means that related small businesses will also be required to report,” it said.

“According to our December 2023 Survey of Business Expectations, only 7.8 per cent of businesses see ESG and/or Net Zero as one of their top five most concerning issues.

“While we don’t dispute that business costs, profitability and staff shortages are more immediate concerns, we are concerned that many businesses will soon be caught out by lack of awareness and understanding of their obligations.”

As such, to support small businesses, the Chamber recommended the state government “introduce a series of micro-grants to enable businesses to assess their ESG credentials and, in partnership with the Chamber, to run an education and awareness program for businesses to understand what they need to do to meet ESG requirements and establish a roadmap for doing so.”

Alongside already announced requests such as funding for a popular entrepreneur program called SAYES and payroll tax reform, the Chamber has requested support for businesses impacted by the engineered stone ban.

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The use of engineered stone will be banned from 1 July due to the risk of those handling the product developing silicosis.

The Chamber acknowledged the ban would protect employees, and said the “communication from the state government and its agencies around the ban has been laudable”, but “there will be businesses which, through no fault of their own, are left with unsold stock or unfulfilled contracts when the ban takes effect”.

“Our suggestion is for the state government to develop, in partnership with the Commonwealth, a compensation scheme for affected companies which have to write off their stock,” the Chamber said.

“The Chamber is also concerned that many of the finer details surrounding the ban have yet to be announced, causing some confusion about business obligations, such as contracts and matters related to the transition phase of the ban.

“We suggest communicating these at the earliest opportunity and would be happy to partner with the state government to do so.”

Changes to the Work Health and Safety Act 2012, which require employers to implement control measures to manage psychosocial risks in the workplace, are also under the Chamber’s microscope. The organisation wants a program developed to help employers better understand their obligations.

“We are asking the state government to fund this to help reduce the incidence of psychosocial injuries among the state’s workforce and improve mental health outcomes,” it said.

Finally, the Chamber recommended the state government offer grants for businesses that will need to buy defibrillators under the Automated External Defibrillators Act 2022 which will require all buildings used for commercial purposes with an area of more than 600sqm to have one installed.

It said multi-use defibrillators can cost between $1500 and $3000: “yet another expense for businesses already facing significant financial challenges due to inflation, rising energy costs, and wage increases”.

“The additional impost of purchasing a defibrillator will prove difficult for many,” the Chamber said.

“The Chamber proposes establishing a once-off grant of $500, to assist small businesses to comply with this legislation.”

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