With the Australian Government recently releasing its Emergency Response Plan to the imminent threat of a coronavirus pandemic, the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) notes the absence of any assistance to Australia’s 2M small businesses that will be impacted by any decision to restrict the movement of Australian citizens to minimise transmission of the virus.
Peter Strong, CEO of COSBOA, stated “While other international economies have rightly sought to impose movement restrictions on their citizens in the face of virus outbreaks, they have also put in place financial assistance programmes for small business given the impact on them and the people that they employ. Australia, on the other hand, has not, despite there being a likely perfect storm of financial loss for many Australian small businesses created by the recent natural disasters and the imminent health disaster”.
Mr Strong added “No one can argue with the right of the Australian Government to impose restrictions on the movement of people should an outbreak occur in the coming months. But what is also obvious is that such restrictions will further impact the economic wellbeing of Australia’s small businesses (and their ability to keep their staff employed) at a time when many are struggling to recover from the adverse financial impacts of recent bushfire and flood disasters”.
COSBOA notes that other countries have provided support. This includes economies like China (see https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/banking-finance/china-to-support-debt-financing-for-virus-related-projects), Hong Kong (see https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/hong-kong-economy/article/3051647/coronavirus-lawmakers-expected-rush-hk30-billionand https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3051475/coronavirus-massive-hk30-billion-relief-package-revealed) and Singapore (see https://www.singaporebudget.gov.sg/budget_2020/budget-measures/stabilisation-and-support-packageand https://www.intheblack.com/articles/2020/02/18/singapore-budget-2020). These countries have all moved to provide major assistance programmes that include the direct injection of cash to small business owners to keep these businesses alive – and keep people employed.
COSBOA also notes that the Queensland State Government has provided support (see https://www.qld.gov.au/about/industry-recovery).
Mr Strong continued “With the exception of Queensland, no Australian Government, on the other hand, has yet canvassed such assistance and the recent Emergency Response Plan released by the federal Government makes no mention of the need to support the operation of Australia’s 2M small businesses and the additional 4.5M Australians that they employ. In fact, given that many of Australia’s small businesses have already been knocked down by the economic impacts of recent fire and flood disasters, there is a stronger case for assistance to be provided to small business in Australia than exists in other international economies”.
“The imminent coronavirus threat is likely to be a knockout blow economically unless something is put in place to cushion the financial impact before the health disaster hits”.
“Australia’s 2M small businesses are the engine room of the economy and of communities all across the nation. If the Australian Government is not willing to support small business people and the employment that they generate when faced with cumulative disasters of unprecedented scale, then the long term economic damage will be profound: damage to the economy, to communities and to families”.