The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the State’s largest and most influential employer organisation, today launched its 2018 election campaign calling on all political parties to commit to reforms that will accelerate trade, investment and employment growth throughout regional Victoria.
Victorian Chamber Chief Executive Mark Stone AM said regional Victoria is vital to the Victorian economy. It is home to more than 140,000 businesses employing 600,000 people and contributes 20 per cent of the State’s economic output.
Mr Stone said regional businesses are working hard to grow jobs and new markets at home and abroad. However, while the potential for further growth is strong, more needs to be done to ensure this growth is deep, wide and sustainable.
He said Stronger Business Stronger Victoria sets out the priorities and reform actions that will give regional Victoria the best chance of success.
“The Chamber’s priorities have been developed by regional business for regional business, including through extensive consultation across the State as part of the Victorian Chamber’s 2017 Victoria Summit,” Mr Stone said.
Statewide priorities for regional Victoria contained in Stronger Business Stronger Victoria include:
Increase the payroll tax threshold to $850,000 from 1 July 2019.
Retain the lower payroll tax rate of 3.65 per cent available to eligible regional employers.
Provide a 25 per cent discount on stamp duty to commercial and industrial properties located in regional Victoria to encourage businesses to establish or relocate to regional areas.
Lift the moratorium on onshore conventional gas exploration to ensure Australian gas fields can provide enough affordable gas for industry and households.
Fund a dedicated communication campaign to attract young talent and improve the image of apprenticeships in priority regional industries including agribusiness, tourism and hospitality, education and health services.
Amend current Victorian Industry Participation Policy (VIPP) to require government departments and agencies to support competitive local suppliers, including SMEs, when awarding contracts valued at $500,000 or more in regional Victoria (compared to the current threshold of $1 million).
Establish a series of Enterprise Zones across Victoria, offering tax concessions, infrastructure incentives and reduced regulations to attract investment and grow jobs
Upgrade strategically significant roads, intersections and bridges used by regional industries in getting their goods to market. The objective must be to improve efficiency and connectivity to port, arterial road and national highway networks.
Provide $25 million to pilot an industry led ‘Supply Chain Development’ program that encourages large companies to work with small and medium sized businesses within their supply chain to assist them build new networks and business opportunities, particularly in export markets.
Allocate $5 million to create a Regional Small Business Global Opportunities promotional and information campaign to address the lack of awareness among regional small businesses of export opportunities and direct them to specific support programs.
Grow the Victorian Jiangsu Business Program (VJBP) to help regional businesses develop new links, capabilities and mutually productive trade and investment opportunities with their counterparts in China.
Strengthen investment in existing food clusters, and new ones, including the Geelong Seafood Cluster, Plenty Food Group, (formerly North East Food Cluster) and East Gippsland Food Cluster.
Fund a $2 million pilot program to boost customer service training in Victoria’s regional tourism and hospitality industry. This would help regional tourism and venue operators strengthen their customer experience, language and cultural awareness skills.
Develop a comprehensive population plan that ensures Victoria’s regions share the prosperity associated with the growth of the state’s population.
Stronger Business Stronger Victoria also urges Victoria’s political parties to support a range of projects and initiatives specific to individual regions. These include:
Great South Coast region
Hume region (Wodonga and Shepparton)
“By adopting the priorities contained in Stronger Business Stronger Victoria the next State Government can play a key role in keeping regional Victoria competitive,” Mr Stone said.
The Victorian Chamber is launching its campaign eight months before the election so all political parties have time to consider and commit to its recommendations.