2 April 2020

Barr foreshadows tenancy relief but some big-ticket infrastructure will be postponed

| Dominic Giannini
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Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said health funding, SPIRE and light rail are priorities. Photo: Region Media.

More help for ACT households and businesses is on its way after Chief Minister Andrew Barr flagged another economic stimulus announcement by the end of the week.

The ACT Government is working with the Commonwealth, as well as other states and territories, on support measures for commercial and residential tenancies, but the Territory’s second economic package will focus on covering the gaps that Federal programs may miss.

Almost no one would be coming out of this crisis economically unscathed, Mr Barr candidly told Canberrans this afternoon (1 April).

“It has been described as trying to hibernate businesses so they are there on the other side of the pandemic,” he said.

“What this means is a sharing of pain, a sharing of the economic and financial losses – the government taking a massive hit, and by government that means every single taxpayer.

“Businesses, landlords, tenants and the banks are all contributing. No one is going to come out of this ahead, we are all going to lose financially.”

National Cabinet is working to ensure that there are a set of nationally consistent guidelines as they aim to support landlords, tenants and businesses during the pandemic, Mr Barr said.

The banks have offered some customers loan repayment deferrals for six months, and the ACT Government said it would provide $250 cash payments – on top of the Commonwealth’s one-off $750 payment for some welfare recipients – to all 12,000 households in the ACT public housing portfolio.

The Federal Government also recently announced a $1,500 per fortnight JobKeeper payment to help keep Australians in jobs. More than 430,000 businesses have already registered with the Australian Tax Office for the subsidy.

Mr Barr called the $130 billion JobKeeper payment absolutely crucial, saying that his government will look to build upon the raft of measures already in place or announced to deliver more relief where it was needed the most.

“We are working closely with the Australian Government, and other state and territory governments on a range of issues that have national implications but local applications,” he said.

“Government support is being focused on those who have been most heavily impacted, those who are partially impacted and those who have been significantly impacted.

“If you are not impacted, then economic life should go on as normal. You should be paying your rent if you have not lost your job or suffered a reduction in your income.”

The ACT Government has held off announcing its second stimulus package to consult with stakeholders, the Chief Minister said, although the package is set to be handed down in the next 24 to 48 hours.

“There are going to be circumstances where we will need to case manage individual businesses, there will be a tailored response to meet the needs of individual businesses in particular industry sectors,” Mr Barr said.

“We are putting in place the teams within the ACT Government to be able to undertake that business-by-business case-management approach.”

It seems unlikely that the ACT’s stimulus package will be legislated in the Government’s ‘omnibus bill’ before the ACT Legislative Assembly tomorrow (2 April).

The next sitting day is currently scheduled for Thursday, 7 May.

Funding will be prioritised for the health system, meaning some big-ticket infrastructure items may be pushed further down the Government’s to-do list.

“We will need [to undertake] some projects when we move into the economic recovery phase, but how many we can do and the size of them remains to be seen. It depends on what the total economic cost is and what capacity we have to borrow money,” Mr Barr said.

“In the context of what may be needed in the next five years, if you are pinning your hopes on the ACT or Federal Government partially funding convention centres or stadiums, then no, I would not think so.

“SPIRE is absolutely essential, that would be the number one priority project for the ACT Government and light rail will be after that.”

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HiddenDragon9:13 pm 02 Apr 20

“SPIRE is absolutely essential, that would be the number one priority project for the ACT Government and light rail will be after that.”

Quelle surprise (re trams) – much the same as Morrison saying today that there’ll be no changes to tax policies for franking credits, negative gearing etc.

We’ll see.

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