Noting the impracticability of some of Australia’s COVID-19 measures, COSBOA has called on the government to plan ahead and draft economic assistance measures that would protect small business in the event of a new disaster.
Among COSBOA’s proposals is a wage subsidy program that “can be turned on or off as the need arises”.
“We should keep the JobKeeper program in the background ready to be implemented when needed, similar to what Germany does with its Kurzarbeit wage subsidy. Preparing it ahead of time would give us a chance to refine the eligibility criteria, application process and other rules,” COSBOA said in a blog published on its website.
Also, part of its proposal are “emergency clauses” for industrial awards and agreements, meaning employers could tap into these when the government declares a state of emergency.
Moreover, COSBOA would like the government to identify what will be essential businesses ahead of a disaster like COVID-19.
“Some of the stories we heard from COSBOA members include tired truck drivers in South Australia being physically dragged away from tables because roadside rest areas were interpreted as non-essential; myotherapists being able to practise in every state except for Victoria; and equipment hire not being on the list of essential businesses despite needing to hire equipment to essential construction sites and even COVID testing centres,” COSBOA said.
According to COSBOA, the possibility is to have different tiers of essential businesses so that business closure can be scaled up or down depending on the severity of the crisis.
A national code of conduct for commercial tenancies is also on COSBOA’s radar, with the group demanding the government create one code that is activated during a state of emergency to ensure business owners are eligible for rent deferrals, special subsidies and/or waivers.
Finally, COSBOA is of the opinion “a day a year” set aside for distancing, to remember what a pandemic means, would be a beneficial means to ensure Aussies are always prepared “for the next one”.
“The biggest lesson is that we must consult now and through that be ready, very ready, for the next pandemic — which is guaranteed to happen, we just don’t know when,” the council concluded.