State and federal governments have been urged to consider tax breaks for businesses impacted by the drought – not just farmers.
Coonamble Shire mayor Al Karanouh has reported one major supplier of farm machinery has already scaled down their business, and let staff go, in response to the drop in business.
There’s less range on the supermarket shelves, he says, and even those on welfare and pensioners are tightening their belts.
“As the state and federal governments always say, we [small businesses] are the backbone of this country,” said Councillor Karanouh, who also owns a cafe business in town.
“But [small businesses] always get bypassed. It’s not that hard to have a special tax break for businesses in drought-affected areas only.
“It could be a tax break, tax cut, payroll cut in tax, and I believe that’s where the government should look before [businesses] shut their doors down.”
Barwon MP Kevin Humphries and Parkes MP Mark Coulton have outlined the drought assistance measures on offer for small businesses, with Parkes MP Mark Coulton admitting more could be done. [SEE THEIR FULL RESPONSE BELOW]
Also making news: Major chains spill on plans to open, or not open, stores in Dubbo
The farm machinery supplier, which Cr Karanouh did not wish to name, offered staff the option to relocate to a city branch, instead of being laid off altogether.
Leaving town is not an option for everyone, but it’s an option farmer Kristy Taylor fears some will take.
At Gulargambone, the Taylors are facing the worst drought in living memory on their property ‘Warrambone’, and have no harvest.
She says if people lose their jobs and leave town, they won’t come back, meaning “this drought could have ramifications for many, many years to come”.
“Once those families leave the district, once they go and seek work in larger regional centres, attracting skills back into these area is going to be hard,” Mrs Taylor said.
“The local auto spares place … no one can buy a bale for them. But those people are also doing it tough.
“Without other business houses there won’t be farmers either. We’ll need them when this drought breaks.”
Cr Karanouh predicted many of those impacted by job losses would end up on Newstart anyway, and urged the government to act “before they shut their doors down”.
But he said Coonamble would recover.
“We’ve been through this before,” he said. “Generations of families have been farming here and they organise themselves to the best of their ability to manage this.
“It’s a fantastic, resilient community … Coonamble will definitely bounce back.”
Further drought assistance on table for businesses: Coulton
In responding to calls from Coonamble Shire mayor Al Karanouh, Parkes MP Mark Coulton said measures such as immediate $1 million grants for local councils and the $50 million water infrastructure fund were designed to stimulate jobs in drought-affected areas.
“That’s to stimulate local projects, so last week I was out there in Coonamble and saw where they had put a new fence around their sports field,” he said.
“We’ve also got the instant asset write-off, $20,000 for small equipment and that’s not necessarily just for the drought but that’s been a big boon for businesses in small towns as people invest in quad bikes, drills and the like.
“We are looking, as the drought continues to bite, as what more we could do … because it is a concern we have and it has been raised with me.”
Barwon MP Kevin Humphries said payroll tax cuts announced in the 2018-19 State Budget would see the tax threshold rise in stages from $750,000 to $1 million by 2021-22.
He added the Regional Investment Attraction Package, while not drought-specific, included financial incentives targeted towards offsetting government levies and duties, such as payroll tax, while initiatives like the $1.3 billion Regional Growth Fund and $190 million Jobs for NSW Fund were also designed to fuel growth in country areas.