With Parliament due to go back next week, it’s time for our political leaders to put the chaos in Canberra firmly behind them and get on with the job.
General economic indicators are pointing in a positive direction, there are some obvious and immediate challenges that we need our leaders to address.
The impact of the drought is going far beyond the farm gate. The NSW Business Chamber recently released business survey data that identified 84 per cent of businesses in regional NSW have been negatively affected by drought, while almost 70 per cent of affected businesses indicated their local economy had been weakened.
No one is bemoaning support of our primary producers but the drought is impacting all parts of the supply chain including retailers, manufacturers and tourism operators. While a pollie in a dusty paddock is always going to ensure a headline or a nice photo in the papers, we need our politicians to be looking to take decisive action to support regional businesses and jobs in areas of Australia that have, and continue to be, ravaged by drought.
There are some practical things that the Federal and State governments can do, these include:
• A drought-focussed business concierge service to help connect non-farm businesses with existing government programs. The service would also provide access to financial counselling and specialised business advisory services in town halls and community centres across regional Australia.
• Clear policy statements on the availability of tailored payment plans to assist businesses in meeting their tax obligations.
• Australian and state government funding to allow local governments to provide council rate relief for drought affected businesses.
• Financial relief modelled on the Farm Household Allowance, made available to family enterprises facing equivalent financial hardship.
• Prioritising drought resilience infrastructure investment in drought-affected communities.
Australians are known for their generosity. It’s time our elected officials stopped talking about themselves, and starting concentrating on helping those who they purport to represent.
Kellon Beard is the Mid North Coast regional manager of the NSW Business Chamber