Tuesday, 3 August 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Cash. In light of the unprecedented economic situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and these ensuing waves, can the minister update the Senate on how the Liberals and Nationals in government are securing Australia's recovery by continuing to support small and family businesses right across Australia to get through the current COVID-19 lockdowns?
I thank Senator Davey for her question. Mr President, as you know, there is no doubt small and family businesses are the backbone of the Australian economy. Since the outset of COVID-19, the Morrison government has backed small and family businesses with unprecedented levels of support. Of course, we will continue to do so. We also know—if you just look at the numbers in the Senate here—that there is still a lot more work to do.
We've now seen recent COVID outbreaks in Victoria, in New South Wales and in Queensland. What that says to us is we're not out of the woods yet. In terms of New South Wales, the business support package in New South Wales, which we partnered with the New South Wales government to deliver, now provides a template for further support measures that will help small and family businesses get through the pandemic. In New South Wales, again in the partnership with the New South Wales government, we're delivering between $1,500 and $100,000 per week for qualifying businesses that have seen a significant downturn in their revenues. Smaller businesses and, in particular, small and micro-businesses—those that only have a small number of employees—will receive a minimum payment of $1,500 per week.
Mr President, as you know, in your home state of Victoria, we also partnered with the Victorian government in business support during their recent lockdown. And we of course stand ready to work with the Queensland government, as we did with the Victorian and New South Wales governments, to provide the economic support for small businesses to get them through the lockdowns. We've done this before and we know that businesses will come through this and will get back to doing what they do best, which is employ Australians.
What we saw last year with the onset of COVID-19 was the Morrison government providing crucial economic support to sole traders to keep their businesses going. We utilised measures like JobKeeper and, of course, when I was the employment minister, allowed owners to meet their mutual obligations by working in their business. That was so important so they didn't need to close their business down. This helped around 690,000 sole traders around Australia and it meant that they were able to continue in their business. They could hibernate their business if necessary and then, as restrictions eased, they could get back into business. Of course, this time round, it is no different. For sole traders who are currently affected in Queensland: from Saturday, you will have the ability to apply for the COVID disaster payment. Services Australia will open applications on Saturday 7 August, and claims will start being processed from Sunday 8 August. You just need to go through myGov.
Across Australia, it doesn't matter where we are, supporting our small and family businesses and, in particular, those affected by the lockdowns is just so important. So many businesses are still able to keep their presence going by the internet, so I would say to anybody across Australia: if you do know a small business that is affected by the lockdown but they are still able to keep going, it is just so important that we're out there and we are supporting them. Australians are obviously doing everything they can to help get through this difficult pandemic. However, what we want in particular for our small and family businesses is for them to be operating freely under circumstances as close as possible to normal. Of course, the best way individual Australians can support our small and family businesses and contribute to our economic recovery is to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. Getting vaccinated is our path back to normality and the key to our recovery.