COSBOA congratulates Senator Michaelia Cash for organising and hosting an historic round table to discuss, indeed confront, the assistance needed for small businesses hit by bushfires. We also thank the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, as well as the Assistant Minister Ben Morton, for not just attending but participating for over 2 hours in a much needed frank discussion and brain storming session.
Peter Strong, CEO of COSBOA, said today “the fact that there were people from businesses in many affected communities in the room was very important to the discussion. It wasn’t just the normal faces we see from peak bodies, it was also the faces of people who have been living with these fires for days and weeks and continue to do so. The community people in the room and on the phone are frankly magnificent and they show why we fight for small business – because they are amazing people. Currently too many of them, as well as their employees and their communities, are experiencing stress and crisis. It is probably more than 300,000 business people and their employees.”
We know this meeting will become meaningless unless the small business bushfire package to be announced very soon provides what is needed. Yet no one can challenge the government on its engagement. This meeting was held at very short notice and the depth of consultation was exceptional. There were some 50 people in the Cabinet room where the meeting was held and another 40 or 50 on the phone. Those on the phone struggled at times to hear as is probably to be expected with those numbers but in the end many on the phone also got to add their experiences and views on what is needed for small business people.
Below is a summary from Sandy Chong, CEO of the Australian Hairdressing Council (Sandy has also been running her own business and has done so for 35 years and has experienced two floods and one earthquake):
“Wow huge meeting! It was great. Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and Michaela Cash. Lots covered on what needs to happen now. Lots of talk on cash flow. Mental health. Business downturn. Bank loans. Insurance. Tourism impact. Tourism assistance. The farmers. Indirect impact. The many sole traders. Rent relief. Rates relief. Loans relief. Accountancy and bookkeeping advice and assistance. Big business paying small business invoices now. Small business covering staff entitlements. Marketing the affected areas as open for business. Marketing Australia to tourists. The Small Business package should be released by next week. And more.”
The scale of the disaster is shown by how many communities were represented in this meeting, both in person and by phone. They included:
In the cabinet room
Bega, Blue Mountains Regional Business, Batemans Bay, Central Coast, Cooma, Jindabyne, Southern Highlands, Illawarra, Thredbo, Tumut, Bairnsdale, Bright and Districts, and Kangaroo Island.*
Bairnsdale, Bemm River, Kangaroo Island, Lake Eucumbene, Katoomba, Springwood, Leura Village, Blaxland, Blackheath, Blue Mountains, Glenbrook, Berry, Eden, Hawkesbury, Lithgow, Macleay Valley, Oberon, Narellan, Orbost, Paynesville, Bemm River, Twin Rivers, Beechworth, Myrtleford, East Gippsland, Woodside, Lobethal and Esperance.*
There were also many peak bodies and industry groups on the phone and in the room, including COSBOA, The Australian Hairdressing Council, Master Grocer’s Association, ACAPMA, ASBFEO, Small business commissioners from Victoria, NSW and Victoria, BCA, The Australian Banking Association, Australian Industry Group, ACCI and state chambers, CPA, Restaurant and Catering, Master Builders, Tourism Transport Forum, Australian Hotels Association, and the Australian Retailers Association.*
*Apologies to any group or community that has been left out.