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NSW State Budget: From Cybersecurity to SMEs, here are the key highlights

The New South Wales government has released its budget for the year 2021–22. Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced several recent and new measures to help the local economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic slump.

The government plans to continue its spending spree on projects to accelerate the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

More importantly, it provides targeted stimulus to the economy through 2021-22, with a total of $6 billion expected to be spent by next year.

Here are some of the noticeable budget spending items:

Cybersecurity:

The government announced a $500 million investment in the Digital Restart Fund to continue driving digital technology investments. 

But, Ian Yip, CEO of Avertro, a venture-backed cybersecurity software firm, noted that the government should have spent more money on cybersecurity. 

“Despite the recent release of the NSW Government’s updated Cyber Security Strategy, very little cyber has made it into the budget,” Mr Yip said.  

“Allocating 6% of what is supposedly a digital transformation spend to cyber is not proportionate to the cyber risk that the NSW Government is exposed to daily.

“While the budget includes $500 million of additional funding allocated to the $2.1 billion Digital Restart Fund, only about $30 million in total appears to have been earmarked to cyber. 

“Much more needs to be done, and this budget does not do enough to make the required impact towards a truly cyber resilient NSW.”

Bushfire and Insurance:

The government sought an additional $268 million —  part of a $460 million package that began last year — to assist the state in responding to the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry recommendations. 

Presently, NSW is the only mainland state that taxes insurance policyholders to fund emergency services and policyholders pay nearly three times the amount of in-state insurance taxes as Victorians.

The NSW insurers have paid out more than $5.6 billion in natural disaster claims since the devastating 2019-20 bushfires.

The Insurance Council of Australia warned that many homeowners would be left without adequate coverage for their most valuable asset if insurance taxes are not addressed. 

Insurance Council’s CEO Andrew Hall said: “The effectiveness of this new investment is lessened by the failure to reform taxes and levies on insurance in New South Wales, which remain the highest in the country.

“Stamp duty on insurance is a retrograde revenue measure that numerous inquiries and reviews have found leads to household underinsurance or non-insurance.

“The Treasurer should seize the opportunity afforded by his proposed changes to property taxes to remove these taxes which are barriers to appropriate levels of insurance cover for New South Wales households and businesses.”

SME community:

The NSW Budget for 2021-22 will include $13 million in funding to the NSW and Small Business Commission to support the state’s small businesses. The budget aims to refresh small enterprises and its regional procurement policy to improve small business participation in the state’s supply chain.  

Moreover, the government announced that it would continue to support small and medium-sized businesses and the economy through ongoing and new initiatives totalling $1.7 billion.

Other key support schemes include:

  • $20.0 million in 2021-22 for the Business Concierge service to provide small business operators with personalised support through Service NSW 
  • $9.8 million in 2021-22 to continue the Business Connect program, which provides professional business advice to small businesses across NSW 
  • $4.3 million in 2021-22 for the NSW Small Business Commission to deliver increased mediation and advisory services to commercial parties
  • Eligible small businesses can claim $1500 in rebates against eligible government fees and charges until 30 June 2022

Vulnerable communities:

The budget included $33.9 million for specialist domestic violence case management over a four-year period. Frontline services that assist victims of domestic and sexual violence will receive an additional $60 million over the next two years.

The program will be rolled out statewide through the Staying Home, Leaving Violence program to ensure victims of domestic and family violence are afforded the option to stay home safely.

Amy Nguyen, Co-Founder, Zen Tea Lounge Foundation, said: “Whilst it’s always positive to see the NSW government investing money in protecting and supporting victims of domestic violence, it’s hard not to feel like we’re still missing the point. 

“The Staying Home and Leaving Violence program is doing critical work to protect victims from perpetrators, and that is a very welcome investment. 

“However, the NSW government needs to be investing in more programs that work on violence prevention rather than reducing harm after the fact.

“The only real way to end domestic violence is by investing in prevention programs at schools and in local communities that aim to stop violence in its tracks.

“Offering programs that help develop higher EQ skills amongst our communities can have a strong long-term impact on reducing violence across the board and save millions of taxpayer dollars spent on treating the aftermath of family violence,” Ms Nguyen said. 

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