Building a brighter future starts now

Written by: Ross McLennan | CEO Townsville Chamber | September 4, 2020

We are living in extraordinary times and it is clear that many businesses across the country have become reliant on the Commonwealth JobKeeper payments to subsidise their operations, but what will it mean for the future of businesses in our region and how can we all help?

Regional Queenslanders have been responsive to health directives and we are proud that there has been no community transmission in our region for several months. Some of our members have highlighted that with the current one person in 4sqm rule they are turning customers away as they cannot be seated with the capacity restrictions in place. Without a small change to this restriction, more hospitality businesses will close when the JobKeeper subsidy is scaled back from October.

We are grateful to the State Government for continuing to make the hard decisions to keep Queenslanders safe, but we need to review the restrictions that are causing opportunities to be lost here in Townsville and our surrounding regions to ensure that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are sustainable before it’s too late.

Last week we joined Chambers of Commerce from around the state to meet with the Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young, and Minister for Employment, Small Business and Training the Hon Shannon Fentiman, to discuss the impacts the current restrictions are having on business. Dr Young has made it clear that until we have a better way to contact trace, the government will not be able to ease capacity restrictions on businesses. Over the weekend we have seen further restrictions applied to Queenslanders. The last thing businesses need now is to be further restricted or shut down due to ineffective contact tracing.

The process must be easy for contract tracers, businesses, and customers if this is to become part of the “new normal” for us to all move forward and the responsibility cannot continue to fall on the shoulders of businesses. We all need to take individual responsibility for our health, safety, and privacy. The process needs to make it simple for consumers and business. 

HERE IS A SOLUTION

Brisbane Junior Chamber of Commerce has designed a simple, free web-based service (safevisit.com.au) that requires consumers and businesses to only need to register their individual details once. When a business registers with Safe Visit, a QR Code for entry and exit to their business is provided. From an individual’s perspective they can then simply scan the QR code with their phone on arrival and departure. It allows the consumer to visit multiple locations without re-entering their details, just a quick scan. This gives the customer the peace of mind that their privacy and details are not being shared, they do not have to touch pens or paper or any other surface that might contribute to transmission and it is not an app or an attempt by businesses to farm personal data. The website collects the necessary information required if authorities need to conduct contract tracing and help businesses to comply with their COVID plans. The information is deleted after 56 days when it is no longer useful for contact tracing purposes. It also has a dashboard that businesses can access to that shows who is checked into their business which is helpful if and when required for compliance by authorities.

The Townsville Chamber of Commerce fully supports this free solution and we have been using it for a few weeks in the office and at our events, we encourage all businesses to review this as an option to help your business meet its COVID requirements.

REMOVING BARRIERS + REBUILDING A HEALTHY ECONOMY 

Here in Townsville and our surrounding regions, we need to look at the big picture. What happens after restrictions ease? How can we make it easier for SMEs to grow and prosper to become businesses that support families and the community and provide job opportunities for our future generations? SMEs comprise 99% of all Australian businesses and employ two out of every three working Australians. So, how can we support this sector to not only survive the pandemic, but to emerge stronger than before?

The NAB SME Reform Blueprint released in July, identifies the reforms needed to unlock growth for SMEs including making it easier to hire new staff, cutting regulation, ensuring small businesses are paid faster to increase cashflow and access to working capital, harnessing the power of digital tools, opening procurement opportunities, further access to different types of capital, lifting small business management capability and improving state business conditions.

The report highlights some major issues that are hindering the ability for employment:

• It found that it takes 18.5hrs for a small business to employ their 1st employee, so it is Wednesday lunch time before you have the right award, insurance, compliance, OHS in place. Employers are seeing this as a major disincentive. 

• SMEs spend $90 on tax compliance for every $1,000 of revenue earned. That is 225 times higher than the 40c it costs large business.

• We have blocking points in the economy like Payroll Tax that is a disincentive for businesses to employ more people and grow the business.

• Industry would love to employ more people if it meant the business and profits could grow, but if the incentive is taken away and they can make the same amount of money with less employees and less headaches, what is the incentive to employ more people?

As the Australian economy begins its cautious recovery from the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, small and medium businesses will be critical to our country’s ongoing prosperity.

Success North Queensland