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SMEs delay business decisions until after the Federal Election

  • New Westpac research reveals some small businesses are delaying hiring and investment decisions until after the election
  • The most profitable businesses aren’t letting election uncertainty get in the way
  • Government can help by decreasing energy costs, reducing regulation and providing more grants

Australian small businesses are concerned about the impact of the impending Federal Election and are delaying critical business decisions, which could impact job growth and investment, according to new survey results in the Westpac Small Business Report in collaboration with Deloitte (PDF 1MB).

The report reveals 50 per cent of small businesses are worried or uncertain about the impact election policies will have on their operations, and they are choosing to delay decisions such as staffing and investment.

An estimated 40 per cent of new jobs in the economy are created by small businesses each year, which is equivalent to 107,000 jobs in 2017-18. Similarly, small businesses invest an average of around $530 million each month, so if the net effect of the election was to delay some proportion of small business investment by two months, overall investment levels could decline for that period. This is coming at a delicate moment for the wider economy with growth already slowing and drags from the housing downturn expected to intensify.

Not all businesses are curtailing activity though. According to the report, the most profitable businesses are less likely to delay decision-making, with 56 per cent stating the election does not affect their timing for hiring staff, compared to just 41 per cent of other businesses; and 58 per cent of this group do not consider the election when buying equipment compared to 40 per cent of other businesses.

Ganesh Chandrasekkar, General Manager of SME Banking at Westpac said: “With the increasing pace and unpredictability of change this quarter, it’s encouraging to see many small businesses adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to decision-making. This is credit to the hard working business owners across the country, and we can all learn from their example.

“We do appreciate not all businesses will share the same level of confidence, and that is why they’re more cautious and delaying decisions after the Federal Election. To ensure more small businesses can continue to operate with confidence, Westpac is here to help with an additional $30 billion available to lend to this sector,” Chandrasekkar said.

According to the report, the most helpful thing it could do to help small business is decrease energy costs, reduce regulation and red tape, and increase small business grants.

“Our customers tell us that small business tax cuts, less regulation and red tape and energy policy are a top priority in the upcoming election. The recently announced plans to fast track tax cuts for small business will offer some support; but more can be done to help particularly with grant funding,” Chandrasekkar said.

“There is a significant number of government grants available but over 40 per cent of small businesses are unaware of what’s available and almost 80 per cent say the government grant process is too difficult to navigate. If there is one area which we could boost confidence it is in the areas of grants – both government and corporate – by easing the burden of compliance and complexity so that businesses receive the benefits.”

Commenting on business conditions for 2019, Chandrasekkar said, “Looking ahead, the economy is facing a more challenging year with the housing downturn expected to have a more material impact on growth with the RBA now expected to cut interest rates to cushion the slowdown. With the Federal Election likely to impact business decisions, 2019 is already shaping up as a trickier year for small business; it will be important we work together with government to ensure they are supported and can continue to operate with certainty.”

Small business advice for 2019

Tips from Ganesh Chandrasekkar, General Manager SME Banking, Westpac Group

Access grants: Significant support for small business is available via grants – both government and corporate. Despite this, only 17 per cent of small businesses survey respondents have received a government grant. Check out to better understand what grants are available and how to apply. Westpac also has a number of grants available, including our Businesses of Tomorrow program, which is recognising the businesses shaping Australia’s future, and Westpac Foundation’s Social Scale-up Grants for social enterprises that are creating employment pathways for vulnerable Australians.

Working with government: Government expenditure constitutes around 25 per cent of GDP; it is also one of Australia’s largest employers. Working with government can be a good way to grow your business, whether it is through a contract or integrating yourself into their procurement supply chain. With a Federal Election looming, now is also a great time to have your views heard. Contact your local MP about your views, needs and pain points.

Diversify: For better or worse, uncertainty is the new norm. However, there are always opportunities to grow, such as diversifying your operations to access new customers and new sources of revenue to future-proof your business. Consider how your product offering can be differentiated in the market to generate more profits by meeting the increasing needs of new customers, such as the environmentally or community conscious consumer.

Have a strategy for innovation in your business plan: Start with understanding your current innovation performance, then consider collaborating with your stakeholders to generate new ideas to help increase efficiencies and reduce costs.

Have a community mindset: Consumers are increasingly becoming more community conscious, so it’s no surprise that Australia’s most profitable small businesses are more community minded and engage in social actions. Consider how this change in customer behaviour can benefit your business and get involved with the community through volunteering, buying local inputs or sourcing materials ethically.

Media enquiries

Georgina Adcock

M: 0411 331 552

Gabi Donohue

M: 0435 588 629

Notes to the editor

The research was commissioned by Westpac in collaboration with Deloitte.

About Deloitte

Deloitte provides audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services to public and private clients spanning multiple industries. With a globally connected network of member firms in more than 150 countries, Deloitte brings world-class capabilities and high-quality service to clients, delivering the insights they need to address their most complex business challenges. Deloitte's approximately 244,000 professionals are committed to becoming the standard of excellence.

Deloitte Access Economics is Australia’s pre-eminent economics advisory practice and a member of Deloitte's global economics group. For more information, please visit:

1 Australian Government (2016), Small Business Counts - Small Business in the Australian economy

2 ABS (2019), 6202.0 - Labour Force, Australia, Jan 2019

3 ABS (2017), 5625.0 - Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia, May 2017,