Speaking during MyBusiness Week 2020, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Kate Carnell, called on the Andrews government to do the right thing and take responsibility.
Ms Carnell emphasised that the point is not to lay the blame on a single person; instead, she called on the focus to shift to small business.
“The people who are not at fault here are the small businesses involved. The small businesses in hospitality, in retail, the beauty therapists and the hairdressers, all the people that are still closed and have been closed since the beginning of August. They were only open for a few weeks after the first shutdown,” Ms Carnell stressed.
“These businesses haven’t done anything wrong, and when you look at it from that perspective, it is absolutely essential that the level of support for businesses in Victoria is significantly increased.”
These businesses, Ms Carnell noted, are not trading and are therefore accumulating debt.
“One of the things I couldn’t get my head around is why the Victorian government made their quite significant payroll tax reductions actually a deferral and not a reduction,” she said.
“So even their payroll tax, they’re going to have to pay at some point down the track. This is simply not acceptable.”
She urged the state government to implement a number of things, including more financial support.
“We keep being told by small businesses in Victoria that they just don’t have the money to reopen, to restock, to get the staff back in, to do the training, they just don’t have any money,” Ms Carnell continued.
“So, they’re going to need access to capital for those who can reopen their businesses. But there is also another scenario, where the business can’t work out how they’re going to reopen, then the state government has got to help them with what it’s going to cost them to break leases.
“They’ve currently got commercial leases and breaking a lease costs money, and similarly with other leased equipment you got. If you’re going to close, then I think it’s up to the government to pick up the tab.”
She stressed again that businesses shouldn’t be punished for a situation they had no input in creating.
“It’s the government’s fault. We have to see a significant step up to the plate by the Victorian government,” Ms Carnell concluded.