At Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 14th January 2020, CEO of the NSW Business Chamber Stephen Cartwright joined other Chamber and business representatives, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, the Minister for Small & Family Business, Michaelia Cash, and the newly appointed head of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency (NBRA), Andrew Colvin, to discuss the impact that the fires are having on business communities in the 46 fire effected LGAs across Australia.
It was very pleasing that most of the 60 or so business representatives who attended the roundtable meeting had the opportunity to contribute their viewpoint. The PM gave the impression that he was keen to really understand the problems presented by those with first-hand knowledge of the situation, and also that he was open to hearing suggestions for ways that the Government might be able to help.
Some of the issues discussed included:
- eligibility criteria for the $15k Small Business Assistance Grants i.e. it appears not to be available unless there has been direct fire damage to the business
- eligibility for insurance cover where the business did not suffer actual damage from the fires but nonetheless suffered economic damage from cancellations or a sudden drop in customers
- the urgent need for cash flow support due to the impact of the fires on SMEs during the normally busiest trading period of the year, including the idea of deferral or forgiveness of GST owed to the ATO
- the idea of a voucher system to allow SMEs to access financial advice from local accountants who can help them navigate available grants or loans etc.
- the need for a funded tourism campaign to persuade tourists to come back to the impacted tourist destinations, including an idea to run a campaign called “rebook not refund” i.e. to persuade tourists to use their deposits to lock in their bookings for next Christmas instead of seeking refunds
- the need for big business to be patient when seeking payment of invoices by impacted SMEs (and the Business Council of Australia was present during the meeting to explain that big business is keen to help)
- the need for the NBRA to work with local representatives to ensure that the solutions offered for each town / village impacted are suitable and tailored for that location i.e. not one size fits all
- the need to ensure local contractors were given the chance to participate in the rebuilding activity
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister announced $75k grants to primary producers impacted by the fires, and this will indirectly assist regional business communities, but based on the comments made by the Prime Minister during yesterday’s meeting, we expect more Federal Government support initiatives for impacted SMEs will be announced in the coming days.
Attached is a useful guide to the support that is currently available to impacted SMEs, along with the current NBRA plan to co-ordinate the Federal Government’s response and assistance. Please note in the second document that the ATO has advised that it is deferring the requirement to file the December quarter BAS for up to 2 months for impacted businesses. For further support resources and factsheets, visit the dedicated NSW Business Chamber webpage: