Overall assessment of the economy among Australian businesses has reached its highest level since December 2010, according to the latest Sensis Business Index (SBI).
Almost three in 10 surveyed small and medium businesses said they believed the economy was growing – nearly double the proportion that believed it was slowing, resulting in a net balance score of 14.
Small-business confidence also remains high despite a small decrease in confidence this quarter. A four-point decrease in business confidence since the previous quarter – dropping from a net 46 to 42 (59 per cent confident and 17 per cent worried) – amounted to the equal third highest confidence level recorded since March 2011.
The index, which reflects the views of 1,000 small and medium businesses (SMBs) from across Australia, also revealed that small-business views of the federal government have become negative for the first time since March 2017.
The number of businesses saying federal government policies are supportive fell (18 per cent to 17 per cent), while the number saying policies work against small business increased (15 per cent to 20 per cent). The net balance was down six points to -3.
The proportion of small businesses that are unimpressed with government policies, citing too much bureaucracy and a focus on big business, has increased by five points, from 13 per cent to 18 per cent.
“Small businesses are telling us that access to finance was more difficult than last quarter, or at this time last year – decreasing 12 points to a net balance of one, 14 points lower than December 2016,” Sensis CEO John Allan said.
SMBs are finding it hardest to access finance in the Northern Territory, returning a score of -10, with a similar story in both Western Australia and Queensland at -8 and -2 respectively. In terms of access to finance, Victoria is leading the way, with small businesses reporting a score of 10.
Across the nation, business confidence was lower in each state but Tasmania, where it increased 10 points to 60, and Queensland, where it was one point higher at 43. Tasmania became the most confident state or territory, while the Northern Territory remained the least confident, also recording the biggest decrease in confidence, down 14 points to 12.