Coronavirus: Daniel Andrews ‘should pick up the tab for small businesses’

Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell.
Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell.

Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has urged the Andrews government to cover costs incurred by small businesses forced to close because of ongoing restrictions, slamming the Premier’s roadmap as a “devastating blow”.

She said if the state government wanted a higher JobKeeper rate maintained in Victoria, it should finance it and not have the Morrison government “pick up the tab”.

She said many small businesses in Victoria would not be able to open for at least another eight weeks and only on the condition there were under five COVID-19 cases a day as a statewide average.

“For struggling small businesses that know they cannot remain viable under these imposed conditions, the Victorian government needs to step up and help them make the sensible business decision to exit,” she said. “This means the government needs to pay for all break-lease termination fees — not just on the premises but also equipment so small business owners can walk away without further penalties.

“It is unreasonable to expect small businesses to continue to hang on and accumulate debt, given this ongoing forced closure is no fault of their own.

“This is a situation no small business could have planned for. The lockdown extension has forced small businesses into this dire predicament and now the government needs to do the right thing to support them to exit if they cannot afford to hang on.”

She said small business loans were often secured against the family home “so these hardworking small business owners are faced with gut-wrenching decisions about their future. They need to be supported in every aspect”.

Victorian unions backed the state government’s proposed roadmap, saying its “slow and steady” approach was the best path to recovery.

Victorian Trade Hall Council secretary Luke Hilakari said on Monday criticism of the state government by Scott Morrison was “hopeless”, accusing the Prime Minister of “abrogating his responsibilities”.