In Brief

Ombudsman urges govt to provide small business certainty over tax breaks

AUSTRALIAN Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, is urging Federal Parliament to give certainty to small business about two crucial tax breaks announced in last year’s Federal Budget.

“Time is running out with just six weeks until the end of the financial year for small business to claim these deductions, but they still don’t know if they’re allowed to make the claims,” Mr Billson said.

“We’re hearing from confused small businesses who just want certainty. I encourage the Parliament to act swiftly to guarantee these small business tax incentives.”

The two measures relate to the instant asset write-off and a tax-incentive for energy efficiency upgrades. 

The legislation would set the instant asset write-off at $20,000 for businesses with a turnover of up to $10 million, allowing them to deduct up to that amount for eligible assets between July 1, 2023 and June 30, 2024.

Federal Treasurer announced in this week’s budget the scheme would be extended to June 30, 2025.

Without legislation authorising the change, small businesses can only write off $1000 for eligible assets and then apply general depreciation rules.

Similarly, the small business energy incentive worth up to $20,000, announced in April 2023 ahead of last year’s budget, will provide an additional 20 percent depreciation for eligible assets that support electrification and more efficient use of energy by small businesses.

The bonus will be available to businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50 million and is aimed at helping them save on energy bills by making investments like electrifying their heating and cooling systems, upgrading to more efficient fridges and induction cooktops, and installing batteries and heat pumps.

“The scheme requires eligible assets or upgrades to be first used or installed ready for use between 1 July 2023 and 30 June 2024, but with the legislation still not passed time is fast running out for small businesses to meet that deadline,” Mr Billson said.

“This uncertainty has highlighted the need for predictability and certainty so a small business can plan in a sure-footed way for important investments that uplift the capacity, the productivity and drive innovation in their business.

“Right now, we need to be energising enterprise. We need to be giving more encouragement for people to turn an idea into an investment and to make that big decision to turn scarce resources into new capability, new equipment, new technology to help with the success of that enterprise and the livelihoods that depend upon it,” he said.

“Having that encouragement to invest in new kit, new plant and equipment, new technology is really an important signal, but what’s needed is the certainty that these tax breaks are real.”

The instant asset write-off is an ongoing incentive with the amount and threshold set each year. The energy incentive is a one-off scheme that ends in six weeks.

Mr Billson said concerned small businesses should seek advice from their accountant, bookkeeper, tax agent or trusted adviser and refer to for more information.


Success in the property today is ‘all about using the tech’ says Domain leader Danielle Harmer

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

TECHNOLOGY has transformed the real estate industry – for consumers and agents alike.

Danielle Harmer, the general manager of product for all of Domain’s agent products, who is also the general manager of the Allhomes area of the platform, said it has now become an essential part of the business,

Compared with 20 years ago, property technology (proptech) is now a crucial part of marketing a property as well as keeping agents in touch with vendors.

“Without it, we would be listing houses in newspapers and hope for the best,” Ms Harmer told Talking Business. 

“A ton of investment is going into proptech, into portals, into all sort of technology that services the real estate industry in Australia.”

Danielle Harmer classifies the technology in two ‘buckets’.

One is around marketing and using the technology to reach the largest possible audience.

The other is in servicing real estate agents.

“There’s a lot of complex processes that go into selling and listing a house and there’s ton of technology that real estate agents use that are workflow solutions that help them look good in front of vendors and run what is a pretty complex process when people are selling houses,” Ms Harmer said.

She said she made extensive use of data every day, looking at how much audience Domain has reached, the conversion on listing portals, the number of listings, the days on market.

“There is so much data in our world,” she Ms Harmer said. “I would say I would use it every day, not only on the technology side to drive our roads and what we use our engineering capacity to develop, but also what we talk about with our clients and what we go to market and write about for our consumers. Facts about the property industry, as well as what we go to, our core business, which is our real estate agent industry,” she said.

Ms Harmer said Domain has launched an artificial intelligence tool called Lead Scope which helps agents identify who in their data base might be looking to sell.

“AI and machine learning have been around for a long time. We’re just seeing that space advance very quickly,” she said.

Many agents were now starting to use the basics of ChatGPT when writing their listing copy for selling a house that is being placed on the market.

She said a large proportion of Domain’s workforce were (tech) engineers.

“Domain is a technology business and a significant proportion of Domain Group’s workforce are the incredible engineers that build on the technology that supports our real estate agents, our banking clients and our consumers,” Ms Harmer said.

She said when there are few selling properties, “which is happening right now in the real estate market”, agents have to use the technology to find listings and to win business. When there are a lot properties on the market, agents will use the technology to get in front of a wider audience.

“If I had to give advice to an agency choosing different technology to use, then you’re going for scalability, you’re going for integration, you’re going to compliance and cyber security and something you know will survive the distance in the technology space,” Ms Harmer said.\


Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at



RMIT expert sees similarities to 1980s and 90s recessions

RMIT UNIVERSITY’s emeritus professor for Public Policy and the Social Economy, David Hayward is perturbed by the current economic clouds that bear a resemblance to recessionary forces in the 1980s and 1990s Australia.

“There are a lot of similarities between the state of the economy in Victoria now and what it was like in the late 1980s, early 1990s,” Dr Hayward said. “Back then Labor was in office and net debt started to climb. 

“The Victorian Treasurer advised that his 1989 state budget was the toughest in living memory, with the state’s finances in a very stressed state.

“Shortly after, the Federal Government pushed interest rates up to over 17 percent as did governments around the world, and Victoria plunged into a deep recession, with unemployment hitting 13 percent. State deficits and debts climbed alarmingly.”

Concerningly, Dr Hayward said, net debt is in a worse state than it was in the tumultuous 1990s.  

“Net debt now is higher in real terms than it was in the depth of the recession back then,” Dr Hayward said.

“If the Reserve Bank’s tightening of monetary policy continues, the Australian economy may be pushed to the brink, while Victoria’s may well be hit especially hard.

“Many people who are still recovering from the economic brunt of COVID – especially those working in or owning restaurants, cafes and tourist accommodation and services, are going to find conditions worsening just when they desperately need it to be getting better,” he warned. 

“Victoria and greater Australia may feel a genuine sense of economic déjà vu.

“Are we on the verge of another bout of painful and unpopular privatisations and other desperate ‘fix-its’ designed to rescue the economy? We may well be about to find out.” 

Dr Hayward’s research interests are the funding of social policy with a focus on the State Governments. He writes regularly for the Age and Sydney Morning Herald and is a frequent expert commentator for the ABC.



Dr David Hayward is Emeritus Professor of Public Policy and the Social Economy at RMIT University. 

Small business mental health and financial counselling support welcomed by Ombudsman

THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Bruce Billson has welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement of $15 million in funding for free mental health and financial counselling support for small businesses in next week’s Federal Budget.

“For small and family business owners, their business is not just their livelihood but a fundamental part of their life,” Mr Billson said.

“Their identities are interwoven into their business and the stakes are so much higher than just a job. Many people have invested a lifetime, and in some cases their family home, into building up their business, which amplifies the emotional challenges.

“It is vital small business owners have support and know that help is available if they need it. 

“I commend Small Business Minister Julie Collins for the $10.9m in extra funding for the New Access for Small Business Owners program operated by Beyond Blue and the extra $4m for the Small Business Debt Hotline operated by Financial Counselling Australia.”

Mr Billson said Beyond Blue’s New Access for Small Business Owners program offers free one-on-one telehealth sessions with specially trained mental health coaches providing evidence-based advice on strategies for managing stress.

“The success of the New Access for Small Business Owners program is built on it being delivered by coaches who have experience in small business,” Mr Billson said. “Being able to speak to someone who understands the mental load of running a small business makes a big difference.

“The Small Business Debt Helpline provides financial counselling support, particularly for small business owners who have loans secured against the family home and are uncertain about their future.

“For small business owners the stakes can be incredibly high and losing the business often means also losing the home,” Mr Billson said.

Mr Billson said he celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit that drives men and women to start a small business but their resilience is being tested and this support was vital.

“Small and family business owners are literally exhausted,” Mr Billson said. “There has been no reprieve from the rolling natural disasters such as floods, bushfires and drought and the lingering effects from COVID-19 and the various lockdowns and restrictions

“Small businesses are struggling to make rosters work and keep doors open due to labour and skills shortages; grappling with supply troubles that means critical inputs, goods and services are not always available; adjusting to higher inflation then many have experienced; rising interest rates; and on edge about cyber security fears.

“Many small businesses are not making a profit and eating into whatever reserves and personal resources they have to pay their bills and service business debts. Understandably this has taken a toll on the bottom line and wellbeing.”

More information about the New Access for Small Business Owners program is available at:

More information about the Small Business Debt Helpline is available at or by calling 1800 413 828.


'Chucking a sickie' this Friday could cost $461m in lost productivity, Finder reports

FRIDAY OF THIS WEEK is shaping up to be a very popular day for Aussies to give work the flick, according to new research by Australian comparison website Finder

The national day of mourning for the late monarch Queen Elizabeth II falls on Thursday September 22, leaving many to believe attendance at work on Friday will be poor.

A new nationally representative survey of 1,060 respondents revealed one-in-eight (13%) Australians – equivalent to 1.7 million workers – have called in sick for a non-health related reason so far this year, at a cost of about $354 per worker, per day.

Consequently, ‘wagging work’ on Friday could cost employers more than $461 million in lost productivity.

Taylor Blackburn, a personal finance specialist at Finder, said employers could be facing a spike in absenteeism this Friday. 

“Workers are trying to take advantage of the bonus public holiday by turning it into an extra long weekend.

“This is how Black Friday got its name in the US – with the Thanksgiving holiday always on Thursday, many workers would not come in on the Friday – hence it was a dark day for owners,” Mr Blackburn said. 

Finder’s survey found 4 percent of Australians have taken a sick day to take care of a pet, while the same number have done so to go shopping.

A small number of Aussies (2%) have 'chucked a sickie' to spend the day at the beach.

Mr Blackburn said good beach conditions can be a tempting reason to take a mental health day.

“Your sick leave should be viewed as a safety net for serious injury or illness in most cases, but there are times when taking a day for yourself is healthy," he said. “A few companies have created a new brand of leave to deal with life that isn’t strictly about running a fever.

“Finder introduced ‘Life Leave’ to give employees time to take a day whenever they need – for their pet, the beach, or a family member – with no questions asked.”

The research found women (17%) were twice as likely as men (9%) to have called in sick just to ‘have a day off’.

An impressive 18 percent of Australians haven’t taken a single sick day so far in 2022, Finder reported.


In 2022 have you taken a sick day for any of the following reasons

Go to the beach






Taking care of a pet


Taking care of a sick family member


Have a day off


Mental health day


I haven’t taken any sick days this year


Source: Finder survey of 1,060 respondents, September 2022



QRC calls for Qld Govt to 'finally' declare New Acland coal extension a 'prescribed project'

THE Queensland Resources Council (QRC) is calling on the Queensland Government to stop stalling and declare New Hope Group's New Acland Stage 3 a prescribed project.

The call follows what the QRC said were unfounded claims by the Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) that the Department of Environment and Science was influenced by New Hope Group to award New Acland Stage 3 its Environmental Authority.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the Department of Environment and Science took more than six months to hand down a decision regarding New Acland Stage 3’s Environmental Authority and its decision had been thoroughly and appropriately considered.

“The Palaszczuk Government needs to have faith in its own processes and not be held to ransom by minority activist groups,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“No resources project in Queensland history has been more scrutinised or assessed than New Acland Stage 3.

“New Hope Group, its workers and the local community have been stuck on a never-ending roundabout for more than 15 years.

“If the relevant government departments and Ministers Stewart (Mining Leases) and Butcher (Associated Water Licence) believe New Acland Stage 3 should go ahead, then they should back themselves. 

“If the Palaszczuk Government believes in its processes and people it needs to declare New Acland Stage 3 a prescribed project," Mr Macfarlane said.

“Otherwise, it is giving an indefinite green light to groups like OCAA, which is backed by the taxpayer-funded Environmental Defenders Office, to challenge every decision. 

“Does the Palaszczuk Government really want New Acland Stage 3 to return to the Land Court for a fourth time, and place at risk hundreds of potential new jobs associated with this project? 

“It’s time for the Government to act decisively.”


World MSME day celebrates the essential vitality of small business says Ombudsman

AUSTRALIAN Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson is using World Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Day (MSME Day, June 27) is calling on Australians to join him today "in saying a big thank you to the women and men running our small and family businesses".

Mr Billson said World MSME Day presented "the perfect chance to applaud the contribution small businesses make to our country".

Mr Billson launched an MSME video of community leaders giving thanks to small business and encouraged people to show their own support.

“These are great people in plain sight, and we see them everywhere, every day,” he said.

“When you stop and think about it, we depend so heavily on the small and family-run businesses in our lives – whether it is the local café, pharmacy, accountant, builder, mechanic or grocer who are conveniently there when you need them. 

“The best way to support small businesses is to be a kindly customer – patient and understanding, with good and generous intent. Small businesses are run by real people who deserve our respect and empathy every day.”

Globally, the United Nations has marked June 27 as MSME Day to raise awareness of the contribution of small businesses to sustainable development and the global economy.

Small businesses provide employment for more than five million Australians – two out of every five people with a private sector job work in a small business.

Small business contributes $483 billion to the Australian economy each year.

Mr Billson said about 38 percent of small businesses are owned by women and in recent years two-thirds of all new businesses have been led by women who are finding solutions to everyday problems, sharing their ideas and building a business from their ingenuity.

“Small business is a dynamic and fast-growing sector that allows people with an entrepreneurial spirit to pursue their dreams,” Mr Billson said.

“We should do more to celebrate the vital and deeply personal commitment made by more than 2.3 million small and family businesses to our community.

“Small business people take on a big and often stressful responsibility. It is not just an enterprise but their life – often their home and mortgage, family and identity are all tied together.”

Mr Billson said the past two years had been particularly hard for small businesses who faced not just shutdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic, but a series of rolling disasters such as devastating bushfires, ongoing drought conditions and record-breaking flooding in various parts of the country.

“Now small businesses have to navigate crushing supply chain disruptions and leaping input costs, soaring energy bills, higher wage costs and a chronic labour shortage just to keep their doors open and serve their communities,” he said.

Mr Billson also urged small business owners and leaders to not overlook their own mental health during such difficult times.

“This can feel unrelenting and it is vitally important those running a small business look after their emotional well-being and mental health,” he said.

“Sometimes it can be as simple as making time to pause, reflect and reconnect. Talking to trusted advisers and networks is a great way to find solutions.

"Our website and the My Business Health portal have useful tools and resources," Mr Billson said.

"Watch the thank you MSME videos and join us in saying thanks by using our MSME stakeholder pack and learning more about the contribution of small business to our society through MSME small business facts."



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