News 27 March 2020

Chief Executive Update 27 March

Right now, Australians and people all over the world are feeling uncertain and vulnerable. Every day we are hearing new information and more announcements, and gradually restrictions are being enforced. The Victorian Chamber wants to assure you that our priorities are, and always will be, for businesses to stay afloat, retain jobs, and to prepare for the eventual rebound.

Today, the Victorian Chamber and the Victorian Trades Hall Council came together to call on the Federal Government to ensure wage continuity through a wage subsidy guarantee program, to help stop working people being stood down, made redundant and unemployed.

We acknowledge the work of the Morrison Government to date, including the additional welfare payments. However, welfare alone risks entrenching unemployment, leaves workers queuing around the block, Centrelink inundated, and does not arm businesses to rebound quickly.

There should be no net cost to the federal budget from adopting this alternate approach to welfare. Longer term costs associated with job seeking, and the social stigma and mental health challenges associated with unemployment can be avoided.

We live in unprecedented times that requires bi-partisanship, lateral thinking and speedy action. We are ready to work with the Federal Government for a better outcome for Victorians and Australians

We were pleased that further help for business in rescue measures from both the State and Federal Governments was announced over the weekend. The Victorian Chamber presented concrete solutions to the Morrison and Andrews Governments to help businesses survive and keep people in jobs.

Many of the measures we recommended have been adopted and are focused on removing cost from business, so that they can afford to stay open, and bringing forward revenue. Measures like support for small and medium businesses to save jobs – up to $100,000 – and a guarantee on loans up to $250,000 so business can stay in business. And from the Andrews Government, payroll tax for small business is being refunded, liquor licensing fees waived and a new $500 million Business Support Fund to help Victorian businesses.

We are working with the State Government to now find ways of using this money to keep businesses in those hardest hit sectors – hospitality, tourism, accommodation, arts and entertainment, retail and manufacturing, and their employees in jobs.

For some members, the assistance may be enough to trade through. However, many of our members have let us know that the assistance is insufficient or doesn’t apply to them. We continue to work with the Federal and Victorian Governments on business assistance, but we need your help to amplify the voice of business. I therefore urge you to complete this short survey. With evidence from members, we can ensure governments are focused on providing help where it is most needed.

Despite the support available for those who have been made redundant, we are deeply concerned about skyrocketing numbers of workers queuing long hours to get unemployment benefits, many of whom are registering for the first time.

The Victorian Chamber urges the Government to also allocate funding to employers where there is an opportunity to keep employees connected to the business, rather than an unemployment queue.

It’s tough for everyone, but business can only bounce back at the end of this crisis if the business remains alive and employees stay connected.

If businesses are supported to keep their staff engaged, even if this means on a part-time basis, it would have better outcomes than workers becoming full-time unemployed.

We should look to NZ, UK and the Netherlands as examples of economic measures that clearly stand with business and employees.

In closing, I want to say that I understand that in such challenging and testing times it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel - however, we know that this crisis will end. It will take many months – governments have spoken of six months but we can’t be certain as so much depends on health outcomes here and overseas.

When the crisis does start to slow, we want Victorian businesses to be able to bounce back stronger. There will be opportunities for consolidation as well as for rapid growth into local and international markets. There will be opportunities to de-risk supply chains by insourcing supply chains, to build skills and capabilities, to invest in capital (taking advantage of government support) and to innovate.

Without distracting from the urgency of our work now to support members, we have already started working on the rebound and I will have more to say on this in the coming months.

More information:

Please visit the Victorian Chamber website for information on how to manage staff, economic survival packages and latest updates and resources from the Department of Health to assist your business and staff.

You can also access advice via our newly launched ‘‘Victorian Business Together - Helping Your Business’ series of regular webinars hosted by Chief Executive Paul Guerra, that provide members with the information they need to continue operating through the COVID-19 crisis. If you missed our first topic covering cashflow management in a crisis, with advice from a leading accounting and advisory firm Pitcher Partners, you can watch online now.


Media Contact

All media enquiries may be directed to the Media and Communications Manager

03 8662 5310

0423 883 945

For all other enquiries please contact the Victorian Chamber on 03 8662 5333

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