Mr Hunter said he understood the need for swift action to control the spread of COVID-19.
However, he also pointed out that most Australian states have implemented at least one snap lockdown and that, every time, many businesses have experienced “significant, unrecoverable losses”.
“It seems businesses are being treated as an afterthought when making lockdown decisions. If governments are going to rip the rug out from under them at short notice, they need to provide a safety net,” Mr Hunter said.
“We’ve been living with COVID-19 for more than a year now. JobKeeper ends next month and we still don’t have a substitute for businesses that are compulsorily closed or those otherwise impacted by lockdowns, such as suppliers and customers outside the lockdown areas.”
Mr Hunter’s comments are similar to that of small business ombudsman Kate Carnell, who responded to the recent snap lockdown in Victoria by saying thousands of Victorian small businesses need to shut up shop for five days without any notice.
As a result, CPA Australia has called on federal, state and territory governments to work together to develop and deliver financial support to businesses severely impacted by lockdowns.
The accounting body said that what that would look like in practice is a matter for the governments, but also thought such support should be:
- Standardised, consistent across jurisdictions
- Scalable to the duration of each lockdown
- Targeted to severely impacted businesses
- Rapidly deployed in hours, not days or weeks
Mr Hunter said that this is not a reaction to events in an individual state, and that the next lockdown could occur anywhere in Australia.
“Sympathy won’t pay for spoilt produce, cancelled bookings and empty chairs at empty tables. Businesses need more certainty — they need a co-ordinated national response that will deliver help fast when the next lockdown occurs,” the chief executive said.