The Canberra Liberals have called for a COVID support package for businesses that are being impacted by lockdowns across the country, especially the extended lockdown in Greater Sydney.
Shadow Minister for Business Leanne Castley said the Government needed to extend support to the hospitality sector in line with its recent tourism package, announced in mid-July.
Ms Castley wants the rebates extended to the hospitality industry and for any stimulus package to also include more targeted measures for hospitality such as emergency cash grants, an extension on the takeaway alcohol scheme until the end of the year and the waiver of food business registration fees and outdoor dining permit fees and until the end of 2022.
“I have spoken to many restaurants, bars and cafes in Canberra, and they are crying out for help,” she said.
“The Labor-Greens Government must urgently throw a lifeline to Canberra’s hospitality businesses, or risk losing the vibrancy of our night-time economy.”
Ms Castley said a recent jump in the Territory’s unemployment rate saw almost 6000 jobs lost in Canberra and she targeted the Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr during question time moving the motion calling for hospitality support in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday (4 August).
The ACT unemployment jumped from 3.6 per cent to 4.9 per cent in the Bureau of Statistic’s (ABS) most recent employment update, the ACT’s second consecutive monthly increase.
While the ACT’s unemployment rate is on par with the national rate and is slightly better than NSW and Queensland, the Territory is used to having the lowest unemployment in the country.
Mr Barr said a jump of this magnitude was unprecedented and may not adequately reflect the ACT’s job market as Treasury continues to analyse other data to determine whether the rate is an anomaly or incorrect.
Mr Barr told the Legislative Assembly that initial analysis of payroll data from Treasury indicated that employment fell, but not to the degree outlined by the ABS.
If the figures proved to adequately reflect the ACT’s job market in the next update, then the Government would respond by creating more jobs in the upcoming Territory budget at the end of August, he said.
Mr Barr said the Government was already providing economic support for businesses across numerous sectors, including through grants and subsidies.
Business Minister Tara Cheyne also lauded the Government’s support, referring to the waivers and measures that Ms Castley wanted to extend.
ChooseCBR vouchers and targeted grants programs for the arts industry were also Government measures that helped support the industry, Ms Cheyne said.
Ms Cheyne amended the motion to remove the dates Ms Castley wanted the waivers extended to, saying that they were arbitrary and not informed by any economic forecasts.
The amended motion called on the Government to “continue to work with industry stakeholders and the Commonwealth Government to increase support for hospitality and tourism businesses and workers across the country”.
It also made reference to the increased unemployment rate and included a section about an almost one per cent increase in the ACT’s retail trade in May.
Greens MLA Jonathan Davis said the amendments improved Ms Castley’s motion by providing flexibility with regard to business support from the Government.
For more information about business support that is currently available from the ACT Government, visit www.act.gov.au/business/business-support.