The technology sector will play a key focus in the government’s response to the COVID-19 recovery, with spending to boost job creation and business investment.
In the budget, described by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as the next phase of "a journey to rebuild our economy and secure Australia’s future," subsidies will be offered to business hiring young workers and women entering the workforce.
A key part of the program announced last night was the $1 billion JobTrainer fund to create up to 340,000 free or low-cost training places for school leavers and jobseekers, along with 50,000 new higher education short courses in agriculture, health, IT, science and teaching.
The focus on jobs extended to the female workforce with the government's second Women’s Economic Security Statement that saw funding for new cadetships and apprenticeships for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“ACS is delighted to see the recognition of the importance of technology professionals in Australia’s recovery from the COVID-19 downturn with the emphasis on IT and cybersecurity in this year’s budget," said Andrew Johnson, ACS Chief Executive Officer.
“The 50,000 new higher education short courses which include IT subjects is an important part of addressing skill shortages across the Australian economy.
“Coupled with this, the announcement of $240m to support female cadetships and apprenticeships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will go some way to address the under-representation of women in the ICT sector.
“Along with the measures announced last week in the advanced manufacturing and Digital Business plans, the budget lays firm foundations for a tech-led recovery.”
As flagged earlier in the week, the government will exempt employer‑provided retraining activities to employees who are redeployed to a different role in the business from Fringe Benefit Tax.
The Treasurer also announced an expansion of the Instant Asset Write Off program allowing businesses with turnover up to $5 billion to immediately deduct the purchase or improvement of ‘eligible’ depreciable assets of any value in the year they are installed.
In good news for the startup sector, the government also revealed it would reverse the changes to the R&D tax offset from 2021 with small claimants – business with less than $20m turnover – seeing an increase in the offset with no cap on annual cash refunds, while larger companies will see a streamlined intensity test and the cap on eligible R&D expenditure lifted from $100m to $150m.
The government also tweaked the previously announced cybersecurity plan, pushing spending to $1.7b, $350m more than the amount announced in June.
On the broader financial outlook, Treasurer Frydenberg said the economy is forecast to fall by 3.75 per cent this calendar year and unemployment to peak at 8 per cent in the December quarter.
Next calendar year, the economy is forecast to grow by 4.25 per cent, and unemployment to fall to 6.5 per cent by the June quarter, 2022.