Labor calls for more aid for small businesses hit by bushfires

“This isn’t a zero-cost exercise,” Mr Albanese said on Monday morning, as Parliament resumed in the wake of a fall in global sharemarkets and growing concerns about the economic damage from the coronavirus.

“If businesses go bust, governments lose the income tax from the employees, they lose the company tax from those businesses, there is a real impact.

“And there’s a knock-on impact as well whereby if businesses leave these communities then what you’re losing is the capital that’s gone into those businesses.”

Labor argued for the spending boost on the grounds a similar program had worked when Cyclone Yasi struck the Queensland coast in 2011 and the Gillard government offered wage assistance to employers equivalent to the Newstart allowance.

The Gillard government program offered the wage top-up for 13 weeks at first but was extended to 26 weeks depending on the speed of the economic recovery.

Labor said small employers were facing a “cash flow crisis” while they recovered from the bushfires, leading some to lose their livelihoods and have to lay off staff.

“That is why the government should consider extending eligibility and access to wage assistance programs for small businesses significantly directly and indirectly affected by the bushfire crisis,” Labor said in a statement on Monday morning.

As well as arguing for the wage assistance, Labor said the government should set up a “business taskforce” to advise Prime Minister Scott Morrison, matching a Labor initiative during the Queensland floods in 2011.


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