JobKeeper collaboration achieving real results for Townsville businesses
In these unprecedented times, the sometimes clumsy hands of government are having to adapt and assist with speed and agility. For Townsville’s business community, that’s been both a good and a bad thing when it comes to the JobKeeper package. But as Herbert MP Phillip Thompson writes, by working together we’ve been able to overcome a range of challenges and pave a way to recovery. And next Monday 18th of May, business owners will have the unique opportunity to connect directly with one of the nation’s key decision-makers.
If there’s one thing business owners in Townsville know, it’s that a one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work for our region when it comes to Government policy. We in the north don’t like to get dictated to by those in the south. Our economy, our lifestyle and our climate are all very different from other parts of the country. The bureaucracy in Canberra like to think they understand, but they often don’t.
That’s why it’s so important that we face challenges head on by working together to find a way through. I think that’s exactly what we’ve seen with the implementation of the $130-billion JobKeeper package.
As most people know by now, this record economic lifeline will help employers affected by the coronavirus continue to pay their employees, even though the money isn’t coming in. It takes the form of a $1500 per fortnight per employee wage subsidy, paid as a refund by the Australian Tax Office. By keeping employers and employees connected in this way, we can be ready to wind back up again, when the restrictions ease.
But as soon as the package was announced, alarm bells began to ring for some Townsville-based businesses. Operators were told they would have to demonstrate a 30% downturn in their turnover, compared with the same month a year ago. The question on many people’s lips was, “How are we supposed to show that when 12 months ago we were in the middle of a 1 in 500-year flood event?”
What followed were plenty of social media messages, emails and phone calls from worried business owners; and I have to say I shared their concerns. Fortunately I had received an assurance from the Treasurer that there would be some sort of alternative test for businesses in this exact situation. But with such a massive package and an ambitious timeline in which to see it implemented, it was going to take a while to be developed.
After many meetings with business owners – remotely via technology of course – we were able to work out exactly the kind of legislation which would ensure that no Townsville business was left disadvantaged because of the monsoon.
After providing this feedback through to the Treasurer, we were able to achieve the outcome we knew was coming, confirmed in legislation: that businesses would be able to use the ‘year before the year before’ – that is, 2018 – as the comparison period for calculating their turnover. It’s the result we wanted, and I’m very grateful to the business community for working together and telling me exactly what they needed to reach that point.
This cooperation was seen again when it became clear that the deadline for businesses to pay their employees and still receive the JobKeeper payment was approaching too quickly. Thanks to the feedback we received, we were able to have that deadline extended by more than a week to not only help businesses with their cashflow but also ensure they weren’t disadvantaged.
I know the JobKeeper package is a very welcome lifeline for many businesses and their employees. But I understand that there are still teething issues and problems to be worked through.
That’s why I’ve invited the Assistant Treasurer and minister responsible for the Australian Taxation Office, Michael Sukkar, to talk directly to the business owners of Townsville, via a massive telephone hookup on Monday May 18 at 5:30pm. As part of this ‘Tele Town Hall’, you’ll be able to ask questions directly of the minister, and provide feedback on what’s working and what isn’t, as we look to move forward to the recovery phase.
I would strongly encourage you to sign up to be part of Monday night’s event on the registration page on my website. Then all you’ll need to do is be ready to receive a call on your nominated phone number at 5:30pm on the afternoon of the 18th.
I look forward to continuing to work with you and your business to emerge equipped and more resilient than ever once we’re through to the other side of this crisis. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact if there’s ever anything I can help with.
Phillip Thompson OAM MP – Federal Member for Herbert