Small businesses confused and concerned

THE impending carbon tax has left the Latrobe Valley’s small business community confused and concerned, according to key sources this week.

Latrobe City Council’s recent Employment and Industry Survey results indicated many local businesses were “increasingly optimistic” about the future but remained “concerned about the carbon tax”, with 60 per cent anticipating a “negative impact”.

The survey, completed by 394 Valley businesses representing 30 per cent of its total estimated workforce, found more businesses were expecting an increase in turnover compared with survey responses two years ago and both confidence and growth continued in service sectors around health, education, recreation and retail.

For many businesses, however, the impact of the carbon tax – to come into effect on Sunday – was causing uncertainty.

Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry manager sustainability services Kate Elborough said discussions among local business during VECCI forums conducted in Gippsland over past months were “quite heated”.

“What VECCI observed though, in Traralgon particularly, was that businesses were acutely well-informed on the carbon tax, compared with other regions, because there is so much going on there… so it was a much more involved conversation and higher level of discussion,” she said.

Yesterday VECCI signed a contract with the Federal Government to provide the Carbon Compass program, Ms Elborough said.

The program will see VECCI take on the role as central body for businesses to seek advice on energy efficiency and sustainability advice in the areas of energy, water, waste and carbon.

“It (the carbon tax) is coming, it’s here and we just really want to help businesses figure this out and understand what they can do,” Ms Elborough said.

“We have had to drum into small businesses that they won’t be directly taxed, but their costs will be impacted depending on how the tax affects their supply chain.

“We have said they need to speak to all their suppliers…and we have encouraged them to seek quotes from electricity providers and use those as leverage to go back to their current provider (for a better deal),” Ms Elborough said.

“This seems to work well.”

Local businesses wanting to access support adjusting to the carbon tax should phone VECCI on 8662 5196.