Thursday, 4 February 2021
JobKeeper, we know, was a temporary payment that was supposed to be there to get us through the pandemic. We're not through the pandemic, and, as we learnt overnight, we are still very much in the fight of our lives to prevent the further spread of the pandemic. What that has meant is that restrictions will continue to be imposed intermittently upon our communities, yet this government is seeking to wind up the JobKeeper temporary subsidy for businesses and workers throughout our electorates. I'm calling on the government today to keep the JobKeeper payment going in the industries that are still affected by restrictions, which are necessary to keep our communities safe.
In my electorate, I'm continually being approached by businesses. I'm approached by businesses in the entertainment and arts sector, by catering businesses, whose entire business comes from the events that we have in our city, and by businesses that provide AV equipment for those city events. In Greater Bendigo and Central Victoria, we are home to a number of wonderful festivals, which have been cancelled for a second year in a row. We know this is the right thing to do because we are in the middle of a pandemic. As the organisers—who are volunteers—say to me, they know it is right to postpone the Eaglehawk Dahlia and Arts Festival again, for a second year, and to postpone our Easter festival, but they're worried about the impact that closing down these events will have on the businesses in our area. I have businesses that are involved in international travel, travel agents who are screaming out, saying that they want to do the right thing. They have credits for their customers, which are being carried over, but they may not be here this time next year to see their customers use those credits, because JobKeeper is ending. There are businesses involved in aviation—contractors—providing services to the aviation fuel industry and the baggage industry, who say that they may be forced to wind up if this government doesn't extend JobKeeper.
We're calling on the government to work with the industries that have been affected by restrictions. We are not through this pandemic. The slowing of the rollout of the vaccine means that we will be in this situation for longer. They need to keep the JobKeeper subsidy going to keep these businesses and workers connected. We don't want to see businesses close because this government withdrew support too early. We don't want to see these workers lose their jobs because this government withdrew support too early. I urge the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to change their rhetoric on this, to keep these people connected to these local businesses and help them get through this pandemic all the way through to the other side.