‘Be generous’: Employers seek help from Andrews to survive shutdowns

Industry chiefs are urging Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to offer generous help to employers to help them survive drastic restrictions after days of confusion and anger over state-wide shutdowns.

Small business leaders are calling for wider consultation and a direct line to political leaders to prevent any repeat of the conflicting signals this week over the rules for employers and permits for their staff.

Industry chiefs are urging Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to offer generous help to businesses to help them survive drastic restrictions.Credit:Simon Schluter

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the economic damage for Victoria would be "enormous and long-lasting" given the need for another $15.6 billion in JobKeeper assistance from the federal government.

"Industry expects that the state government will have to generously and creatively step up to the plate to help businesses get back on their feet when this phase is over," Mr Willox said.

"This week has been an ordeal for thousands of business owners and operators and their staff.

"Much uncertainty and confusion remains and many businesses are still struggling to work out why they have to operate at reduced capacity and how they will do it.

Innes Willox, chief executive of Australian Industry Group

"It is becoming clearer by the day that the government's approach has added immeasurably to the stress on businesses and their employees."

Mr Andrews said the government had held "literally thousands" of Zoom calls with employers in recent days as well as 20 roundtable meetings with industry, but he acknowledged not all the concerns about the rules had been settled.

"Anybody who wants further clarification, or anybody who wants further discussion with us, of course we're open to that," he said

"It's not like we've stopped once these rules came into effect on midnight Wednesday."

Some of the restrictions were pushed back to take effect on midnight on Friday night or midnight on Sunday night.

Mr Andrews said this week was a "transition week" and he said the rules could be changed if needed, such as to ensure food was available on supermarket shelves.

The Council of Small Business Owners of Australia held talks with Small Business Minister Jaala Pulford on Friday but is seeking greater consultation in the hope of saving companies over the next six weeks.

"They are making decisions without understanding the impacts," said Peter Strong, the chief executive of the small business group.

"There has to be a hotline between key industry groups. There has to be a recognition of the immediate needs of small business people as and when they need it. Every decision made must consider the impact on the people in a business."

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas spoke to about 85 executives from the Business Council of Australia on Wednesday night but this did not ease the frustration over the complex rules about who was permitted to work outside their homes.

The latest changes to JobKeeper are expected to see about half of Victoria's private sector workforce relying on the federal wage subsidy.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg suggested Mr Andrews and other state leaders should offer more help on the economic challenge and criticised the state government for its "significant failures" with hotel quarantine.

"We have stumped up more than $300 billion for the Australian community through this crisis," Mr Frydenberg told Sky News.

"Now the states have stumped up $42 billion. I would welcome further contributions from them.

"But ultimately we're all Australians and we're all in this together. And as a Victorian I feel so devastated about what has transpired in my state. It should have never got to this."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the state government had "total control" over the restrictions but he would seek to influence the decisions.

"People can be assured that the Commonwealth would be pushing those issues quite strongly," he said.

"But the way we're doing that is by working [with] the government in Victoria and seeking to do it that way. I don't see a great advantage of engaging in that process in some sort of public spectacle."

Mr Willox said the reality of the closures was only just sinking in for many employers and there would have to be "true partnership" and consultation with the government to save jobs.

"Antagonism and suspicion will only ensure more people are kept out of work," he said.

Sign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletter

Get our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the day’s crucial developments at a glance, the numbers you need to know and what our readers are saying. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here and The Age’s here.

Source: Read Full Article