The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry responded to the latest ABS National Accounts data, saying it shows the economic recovery is now well underway, with GDP growth for the December quarter exceeding expectations, up a further 3.1 per cent, taking the year-on-year rate for 2020 to -1.1 per cent.
There are also signs of a turnaround in business investment, increasing 1.4 per cent, following over a year of decline, according to the ACCI.
Despite the encouraging figures, ACCI acting chief executive Jenny Lambert said the recovery is very uneven.
“There is ongoing weakness in many sectors, particularly those impacted by international travel and state health-based restrictions, as well as CBD-based businesses, which are being impacted by working-from-home trends,” Ms Lambert said.
“With JobKeeper scheduled to end on March 28, businesses in sectors that continue to be impacted by international travel and other government restrictions will need ongoing support.
“This includes international tourism operators, such as airlines and travel agents, as well as businesses that host international events. These businesses have been severely affected by the continued closure of the international border, with most experiencing turnover reductions above 60 per cent and many much worse.”
Ms Lambert said immediate direct cash support to this cohort of businesses is vital if they are to be preserved for the pending recovery.
She said that without this support, many businesses will not survive until Australia’s international borders reopen and iconic tourist operations may be lost, with resulting job losses.
“Examples of stimulus measures could include tax rebates, short-term exemptions from FBT rules for accommodation, air and land transport, CBD dining, or vouchers for ‘longer stay’ travel, including incentives to experience tours and attractions in affected areas,” she said.
“A combination of support and stimulus, appropriately targeted, will ensure we retain the skills and infrastructure that Australia needs when we assume COVID normal operations.”