The 2019 election campaign saw a continued focus by the NSW Coalition on small and medium enterprises, together with new incentives for private sector investment in renewables.

Assistance package for small to medium size businesses

Following on from increases to payroll tax thresholds announced in the 2018-2019 NSW Budget, the Government has now proposed to reduce the workers compensation insurance premiums paid by businesses by $100 million per year ($300 million over the forward estimates). In a bid to encourage safe work practices, the changes are targeted at businesses with a safe work history.

The Government has also committed to amending its approach to procurement, requiring all NSW Government agencies to consider small business suppliers for everything that the agencies purchase. 

These changes are intended to provide encouragement to small business in NSW.

New co-working start-up hub in Western Sydney

In a new initiative designed to support start-ups in Western Sydney, an existing government building in Parramatta North will be renovated into a co-working start-up hub, with subsidised affordable work spaces and programs to support new businesses. With operations proposed to commence on 1 July 2020, at least 1,500 m2 will be available to rent by start-ups and small businesses. The programs will be funded by the Department of Industry.

Consistent with the NSW Government’s ongoing focus and investment in Western Sydney, the start-up hub should provide improved opportunities for growth in the local economy. The efforts to facilitate and encourage new start-ups and SME’s are consistent with changes at the Commonwealth level, such as last year’s changes to allow crowd-sourced funding.

Agribusiness - Establishment of an Agricultural Commissioner

The NSW Government has committed to the July 2019 establishment of a new statutory authority of the NSW Agricultural Commissioner, to support the Office of the Small Business Commissioner in advancing policies in support of lawful agricultural practices.  

The proposal for a NSW Agricultural Commissioner was a politically contentious issue in the lead up to the election and reflects a push by the NSW Nationals to create this role. Further changes to agribusiness regulation seems a likely result of the Commissioner’s entrance to the scene, noting the new Commissioner will collaborate with local government to give effect to legislative and regulatory reforms.

Incentives for private sector investment in renewables

Additional funding has been announced for large-scale, on-demand clean energy projects in collaboration with the private sector via the Emerging Energy Program. Funding will increase from $55 million in 2019­–20 to $75 million in 2020–21. The funding represents part of the NSW Governments “renewable” initiatives, designed to incentivise private investment in sustainable power solutions.

The NSW Government has further promised regulatory changes in support of its funding promises, to facilitate the installation of solar panels in apartments, batteries and other sustainable infrastructure. To date, the small-scale renewables sector has been the subject of criticism and accusations of poor practice and industry cowboys. Notwithstanding the ongoing concerns, these policies should make investment in renewables in the state more attractive. The NSW Government would certainly be crossing its fingers, given its target for NSW to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050. 

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