Tens of millions of dollars of ACT Government spending will not solve the shortage of professionals in the territory but are a welcome first step, according to Australia’s leading accounting body, CPA Australia.
The 2022-23 ACT Budget reveals there were 12,300 job vacancies in the ACT over the year to May 2022, compared to 7460 unemployed people in the territory.
“Last year there was no focus on the ACT's professional skills shortage. This year, there has been a renewed effort to address some of these concerns,” CPA Australia Senior Manager Tax Policy Elinor Kasapidis says.
“There are now more job vacancies in the ACT than there are unemployed Canberrans. Skills shortages can constrain economic growth.”
The 2022-23 ACT Budget includes $35 million over four years earmarked to help support jobs. This includes $22.4 million for initiatives focusing on the development of knowledge intensive sectors such as commercialising research and innovation.
“There is a severe skills shortage across the Territory, including accounting and business professionals.”
A further $35 million is provided for skills and training. Of this, the lion’s share is for a new CIT Campus in Woden ($31.2 million). The remainder ($4.2 million) is for attracting and retaining international students by refreshing Study Canberra.
“We welcome initiatives to address the skills shortage in Canberra, both to foster home-grown talent and to attract international students to the nation’s capital,” she says.
“We are glad the ACT Government has the appetite to address some of this problem. There is no silver bullet for solving skills shortages.”
The Budget Papers warn lockdowns imposed by governments overseas, particularly in China, to manage COVID-19 outbreaks could delay the return of international students and skilled migrants.
“We want to see cohesion between the ACT plan and the Federal Government's approach. Businesses across the country urgently need access to skilled workers and we want to ensure there is a national plan.”
“All governments should work together to identify where workforce pressures are greatest and increase the number of free or highly subsidised training places in these areas.”
“The ACT Government has acknowledged small and medium businesses face a range of risks in the current economy including inflationary pressures continuing for an extended period of time and sharp interest rate rises.”
Despite these concerns, there was limited support for businesses in the budget outside of new skills initiatives and $3.1 million of support for the tourism industry.
"CPA Australia wants the ACT Government to consider support for businesses within the territory whose operations were challenged by the pandemic and who now face a highly uncertain environment,” she says.
“Many of our members have informed us that small business clients are facing a range of pressures - from skills shortages, rising input costs and increased cost of debt. This can affect the viability of businesses into the future and compromise Australia's strong recovery.”
“A voucher or grant scheme allowing businesses to access professional advice would help businesses to take advantage of new opportunities and manage any lingering effects from COVID,” she says.
The budget discloses net debt of $6.5 billion in 2022-23 increasing to $9.9 billion in 2025-26. The budget will remain in deficit over each of the next four years. The deficit is estimated to be $483 million in 2022-23, which is lower than previously forecast.
The Territory’s economy is forecast to grow 3 per cent in 2022-23, 0.25 percentage points lower than expected last year, with this growth level expected to be maintained in 2023-24. Revenue is expected to reach $7 billion in 2022-23. Government expenses are expected to total almost $7.8 billion.
There are 3500 members in CPA Australia’s ACT division.
Jennifer Duke, External Affairs Lead on +61 438 502 389 or email: [email protected]
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