29/06/2021 - 15:11

Quick, appropriate support needed: CCIWA

29/06/2021 - 15:11

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The state government has tasked Treasury with assessing potential compensation for small businesses affected by the latest snap four-day lockdown.

Quick, appropriate support needed: CCIWA
Chris Rodwell said the impact on small businesses needed to be recognised. Photo: Matt Mckenzie

The state government has tasked Treasury with assessing potential compensation for small businesses affected by the latest snap four-day lockdown, amid calls from Western Australia’s peak business association for quick and appropriate support.

Perth and Peel entered a four-day circuit-breaker lockdown at midnight last night after a third person tested positive for what has now been confirmed as the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19.

The restrictions forced the closure of hundreds of small businesses that did not offer takeaway or essential services, including bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants, beauty salons, retailers, gyms and public venues.

The lockdown prompted calls from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA (CCIWA) for businesses affected by the lockdown to be compensated quickly and appropriately, warning it could inflict significant harm.

CCIWA chief executive Chris Rodwell said while the chamber supported the increased restrictions on the economy on the basis that they would protect the public and avoid a protracted lockdown, the impact on small businesses needed to be recognised.

“For the owners of these businesses, this is an unsettling and stressful time,” he said.

“Their livelihoods and that of their families depends on the cash flow generated through their operations.

“For many business owners, the family home is used as security against their bank loans. 

“These businesses bear the financial costs of lockdowns on behalf of society, and it is critical they are compensated quickly and appropriately.  

“We also encourage everyone in Perth and Peel to support businesses in their local communities.”

During a press conference earlier today, Premier Mark McGowan said he had already asked Treasury to review potential financial support for small businesses, as the state government had done during the last three lockdowns.

Following the first four-week lockdown in March 2020, the state government issued $502 million in COVID relief support for small businesses, including credits for electricity bills, the waiving of licence fees, and additional payroll tax relief.

During the five-day lockdown in February this year, further support was offered to small businesses in the form of a $43 million electricity offset package, grants and the waiving of rental payments for businesses and not-for-profit organisations residing in government-owned buildings.

Just last week, the state government announced it had rolled out more than $4.6 million to 2,300 small businesses in Perth, Rottnest and Peel directly impacted by the most recent ANZAC Day long weekend lockdown as part of the first tranche of its Small Business Lockdown Assistance Grants program.

“We will obviously look at what compensation measures we can put in place in the coming days and weeks,” Mr McGowan said.

“But for now, the main focus is working together to deal with this challenge as a community.

“The sooner we get it under control and eliminate it, the better we’ll all be.

“In terms of businesses, it’s terrible.

“Hairdressers, nail salons, and numerous other businesses won’t be open tomorrow.

“They will suffer financial losses.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking and I’m deeply sorry.”

FIFO flights grounded

Meanwhile, flights throughout the state have been grounded and dozens of fly-in, fly-out workers have had their swings extended as the state government restricts travel in and out of Perth and Peel.

During the press conference last night, Mr McGowan clarified that only workers deemed essential to the maintenance and operations at the mine site would be exempted, and that all others should remain in situ.

He said the state government had been working closely with the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia to implement the measures, pointing to the challenges posed by the recent Tanami gold mine outbreak in the Northern Territory.

“What we’re asking FIFO workers to do, and we’ve been in contact with the mining industry tonight, we’re asking the FIFO industry to stay home,” Mr McGowan said.

“If you’re essential for maintenance or operations that can’t be spared, then those people are exempted.

“We’re also asking, and I know this is a big ask, for those people already there to continue their swing.

“We’re putting in place a pretty extreme measure, we’re seeking to work with the mining industry.”

In a statement released late last night, CME chief executive Paul Everingham confirmed industry was limiting people movement into and out of the Perth and Peel area to protect workers and the broader community.

“WA government directions stipulate that only employees critical to “ongoing operations” will be allowed to travel outbound from Perth [and] Peel,” he said.

“This will likely result in slightly longer shift rosters for those currently on site.”

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