ACT News

ACT business confidence drops

Chief Minister Andrew Barr questioned a significant drop in business confidence in the ACT government on Thursday and said "statistical noise" could be to blame for the newly released figures .

Territory government policies received a negative approval rating of -10 when respondents were asked if policies supported small businesses or worked against them.

In August 2014, the government's policies received a positive result of 32 points, giving it the highest approval rating of any jurisdiction.

The Sensis Business Index found nationally an average of 21 per cent felt their state or territory government supported small business activities, while 22 per cent felt they were working against small business interests. 

In the ACT, 24 per cent said government policies supported business, 34 per cent said they worked against and 42 per said said they had no impact. 

The report also found the territory recorded a 12-point drop in business confidence in the past quarter, putting the ACT "far below the national average and in a clear last place on the rankings".

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Despite optimism for the current quarter, small and medium-sized enterprises reported falls in sales, prices and capital expenditure last quarter, as well as falls in wages. The report found profitability in the ACT "hardly moved". 

Nationally 51 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses said they felt confident overall and 24 per cent said they were concerned. 

Mr Barr said he was surprised by the data. 

"I am not aware of any significant changes in policy settings that has occurred between August and November that would lead you to this result being so different. 

"We will certainly seek some further information in relation to the issues that were raised," he said. 

"If there are issues that have emerged between August and November that need responding to, we will." 

Mr Barr said the small-business environment was challenging as a result of Commonwealth government job and spending cuts.

Nervousness existed about decisions on where the Immigration Department would be located and other Commonwealth spending commitments, he said. 

"Different regions will go through different cycles of growth and development, and there is no doubt that some parts of the city are booming as a result of significant private sector investment. Those stories are being told reasonably well in the context of Braddon or Kingston Foreshore."

Opposition treasury spokesman Brendan Smyth said confidence in ACT Labor's handling of the economy had "fallen through the floor". 

"The negative 10 result shows that ACT small to medium enterprises believe that ACT government policies are now working against small business interests and this needs to change," Mr Smyth said.

"It's little wonder that business confidence has plummeted when we have a government that is more interested in building a light rail line with a return of $1.20 for every dollar invested when the business community's preferred option is a convention centre with a return of $2.40." 

Restrictive government fees and charges and territory regulations resulted in a poor environment for business, he said.

"It's obvious ACT Labor is out of touch and has failed business in the ACT. Andrew Barr is now at the helm and needs to show he can walk the walk and not just talk the talk."