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13 October 2017

High energy costs slash small business investment

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has expressed dismay that politicians continue to argue over energy policy while small businesses suffer.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the latest East & Partners SME survey* of 1280 businesses showed 70 per cent would reduce investment in capital expenditure because of higher energy prices.

The survey shows that:

  • 39.5 per cent of SMEs would scale back in the short term (long-term capex unchanged);
  • 20.8 per cent would scale back in the long term (short-term capex unchanged); and
  • 9.9 per cent would scale back capital expenditure in the short and long term.

Ms Carnell said that despite evidence of spiralling energy costs and reduced business confidence, politicians had not provided investment certainty.

In particular, she criticised State Governments for failing to agree with a national approach.

“The ACCC has revealed the impact of gas exploration bans on supply and distribution in Victoria and New South Wales, but these governments continue to shift the blame elsewhere,” she said.

“The Labor states talk about going alone on a clean energy target, which is putting politics ahead of the national interest.

“Meanwhile, businesses in South Australia may have to use dirty diesel generators to keep the lights on over summer.

“The Finkel Report provided a roadmap to repair the long-term damage of failed policies.

“All parties and all governments should endorse the report, remove bans on gas exploration and adopt a bipartisan approach to provide investment certainty.

“The danger with continued political bickering is that businesses will go to the wall, jobs will move offshore and be lost and consumers will feel even greater pain.”

* The energy question was asked as part of the East & Partners SME Transaction Banking survey, which examines and forecasts demand for transaction banking product lines and service offerings within Australia’s Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) segment (A$1-20 million turnover per annum).