As households across the country face increasing cost pressures, inflation and economic uncertainty, peak retail bodies and businesses have welcomed the Labor government’s first budget.
The budget focuses on social reforms such as greater access to childcare, paid parental leave, an increase in migration uptake and paid family and domestic violence leave coupled with increasing investments in the manufacturing sector and growing the skilled workforce.
Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra commended the government for embarking on these “bold” social reforms and for making women and gender equality a priority in this budget.
“With many households facing financial stress, we’re pleased to see the cost of living a key focus. The $7.5 billion package which includes cheaper child care and the expansion of paid parental leave will help ease the pressure on
families and improve the economic participation of women,” he said.
Highlighting the challenges lying ahead for businesses, Zahra added: “Inflation is forecast to peak at 7.75 per cent later this year and our economy is set to slow to 1.5 per cent growth in 2023-24.
“The more immediate challenge for retail is the jobs and skills crisis, which is worsening in our sector with job vacancies at over 46,000 and one of few industries that recorded an increase in vacancies last quarter.”
Zahra added though the retail sector remains “overall resilient”, it will continue to be cautious about the economic outlook as rising interest rates will tighten household budgets.
Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) CEO Tanya Barden said the budget shows a “welcome focus” on rebuilding Australian industry.
“The AFGC represents Australia’s $133.6 billion food and grocery manufacturing industry. The Albanese government’s focus on investing in the industry, regional growth and building the skilled workforce of the future is welcomed.”
The budget has allocated $135.5 million over four years to develop domestic manufacturing capabilities and skills, including $17.2 million for a pilot Food Manufacturing Innovation Hub in NSW.
Permanent migration levels will likely increase from 160,000 to 195,000 which will help ease critical workforce and skills pressures currently plaguing the industry.
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson said small businesses have a proven track record of “lifting our nation” and the mental health and financial counselling support reforms mentioned in this budget are important.
“Small and family business owners are literally exhausted. They are struggling to make rosters work and keep doors open due to labour and skills shortages, grappling with supply troubles as goods and services are not always available.
“We continue to urge the government to support small businesses and believe energising enterprise can deliver a stronger economy.”