Parliament – JobKeeper support for businesses

Thursday, 03 September 2020

Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (12:22):  In the southern suburbs of Adelaide, we have some of the best local businesses in the country. They are the backbone of our local economy and they provide amazing goods and services to our community and wonderful support. They have been hit very badly during this health pandemic and, indeed, during the recession that we are now having. Some of them, unfortunately, have already closed their doors through no fault of their own. Some businesses have already not been able to weather these difficult times.

Some have been incredibly agile at adapting, and I’ve met with many business. I met with Kate from Fancy That, a costume-hire company in Christies Beach, who you can imagine has been impacted greatly during this. There is no costume hire with no book week, no fancy dress parties and no big gatherings, but she has done her best to keep the doors open. In fact, she’s pivoted to making fabric masks—one way that many businesses have pivoted.

In the initial stages of this crisis, there was enormous uncertainty for months. The JobKeeper wage subsidy that Labor called for has been an important measure to ensure workers were supported and businesses remained open. Many businesses in my electorate that I’ve spoken to understood the government had to urgently get support out the door. However, David from Hallett Cove told me that while this expedient measure was welcomed, there were inequitable parts of it. There were some who missed out who should’ve been supported and some who actually got paid more than they were used to. They certainly understood the urgency but they did recognise that it was up to the government to nuance them.

A local swimming centre manager contacted me regarding the lack of nuance in JobKeeper as well. She had a group of employees that had accompanied the business from a previous owner 10 months before JobKeeper kicked in. Despite their talent and experience as swimming instructors and having worked there for many years, because it was considered a new business, they were denied JobKeeper as that business itself had not operated longer than 12 months under the new owners.

And a 50-year-old casual worker told me, once again of this difficulty: ‘On average I worked 30 hours per week for the last two years working for a labour hire agency, but I won’t qualify for JobKeeper because I take whatever shift I can get from different companies. Therefore, I won’t qualify.’ So there were inequities in this, and businesses that I have been talking to are keen for some of these inequities to be sorted out. They have been very nervous about September and are pleased that the government has announced a continuation of it into March but are concerned about some of the changes that have been made.

There are businesses that continue to take a hit but may not qualify. I spoke to Gabby, a cafe-owner from Morphett Vale, who said: ‘It feels unfair that my business continues to take up to a 25 per cent hit each month. It’s scary to think if this pattern continues that it means I take these losses on my own. The less than 30 per cent drop means that I will not qualify for JobKeeper or rent relief. My bills will be the same with less income.’ There’s also Sasha, who has indicated that things aren’t back to normal: ‘With a shortfall from international suppliers for my products and decisions of charities, who were overrun by donations and gave excess items to landfill, meant that my business has struggled to make the usual products.’

So there are concerns about the impact going forward. The message that I’ve really had from businesses is that there is still deep uncertainty. The government is treating this like a linear recovery, with a lack of recognition that there is still so much uncertainty out there. I’ve had a business tell me that even with a small change in restrictions their one-party business, in the seat of Kingston, lost $20,000 in two hours after a slight change in the number of gatherings at a home. So we’re not out of the woods yet. There still is great uncertainty and a lack of consumer confidence. We need to make sure that the government doesn’t just treat this recovery like a linear recovery. If the circumstances warrant it, support needs to be there for those local businesses who have been impacted through no fault of their own. They are doing their best, and they deserve us to back them.

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