Budget 2017: Major infrastructure advertising account opportunities and businesses to pay foreign worker levy

Changes to the 457 work visa scheme, which many in the marketing and communications industry fear could destroy Australia’s access to overseas talent, will see businesses now contributing to a Skilling Australia Fund on an annual basis if they bring in temporary workers, Treasurer Scott Morrison announced in his 2017 Budget.

At the same time companies seeking to bring in workers permanently on a skilled visa will be forced to pay a one-off levy of $3,000 and $5,000 under the new rules.

“Until now, employers have had to contribute 1 or 2 per cent of their payroll to training if they employ foreign workers,” Morrison said in his Budget speech.

“These requirements have proven difficult to police. Accordingly, we are replacing these requirements with an annual foreign worker levy of $1,200 or $1,800 per worker per year on temporary work visas and a $3,000 or $5,000 one-off levy for those on a permanent skilled visa. Over the next four years, $1.2 billion will be raised from this levy that will contribute directly to a new Commonwealth-State Skilling Australians Fund.

“States and Territories will only be able to draw on this fund when they deliver on their commitments to train new apprentices.”

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield pre-empted the Budget over the weekend with the announcement of major media reforms including cuts to broadcast licence fees, the end of cross media ownership laws, a reduction of the number of sports on the anti-siphoning list and a ban on betting advertising during live sports across broadcast and digital platforms.

However, Treasurer Morrison’s broader Budget announcement last night delivered a mix of good and bad news for the media, marketing and communications sectors including tax benefits.

Morrison said the 457 visa changes would give Australian businesses the opportunity employ more Australians rather than bringing in skilled workers from overseas.

Small agencies and boutique operations will get a cash-flow boost through the extension of the $20,000 small business deductibility threshold for a further year, with the annual turnover of companies eligible increased five-fold to $10m.

The government’s much-heralded company tax cut to 25% will be another fillip for agencies and media companies in the longer term with the rate for all companies cut to 25% by 2026-27.

“Increased business capital is expected to raise productivity and real wages and permanently expand the economy by just over one per cent in the long term,” the budget papers said.

However, perhaps the biggest opportunity for the advertising and communications industry will come through the major infrastructure announcements.

Communications and advertising accounts to support the $10b national rail program is expected to come up for grabs as the government moves to promote the nation-building program.

The creation of new agencies is also expected to create communications opportunities.

The government has flagged the creation of an Australian Financial Complaints Authority which aims to simplify consumer complaints against banks.

“The government will create a new framework for dispute resolution with a one‑stop shop, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, to consider all financial disputes to ensure that consumers and small businesses have access to free, fast and binding dispute resolution,” the budget papers revealed.

Morrison also announced major initiatives in a bid to relieve stress in the housing market with the creation of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation from July next year.



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