Small business falling through COVID cracks: Dale Last

LNP Northern Australia spokesman says small business falling through state's COVID rescue package

Coronavirus
Barcaldine Tourist Park owner Helen Tomlinson describes the COVID-19 impact on her business as like more drought.

Barcaldine Tourist Park owner Helen Tomlinson describes the COVID-19 impact on her business as like more drought.

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The state government must do more to help small regional businesses sledgehammered by the impacts of COVID-19, opposition Northern Queensland spokesman Dale Last claims.

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The state government must do more to help small regional businesses sledgehammered by the impacts of COVID-19, opposition Northern Queensland spokesman Dale Last claims.

"I've just travelled through Mareeba, around the Atherton Tablelands and down as far as Hughenden and the message is still the same - small business is absolutely hurting and needs more support," he said. "It's now that they're talking to their bank managers that the reality is hitting - they won't be able to trade their way out of this."

Mr Last said hospitality businesses were really feeling it, particularly anything linked to tourism, and the impact was even greater on those that had weathered low trading conditions through years of drought.

One of those is the Barcaldine Tourist Park, which has 40 van sites and 10 cabins.

According to part-owner Helen Tomlinson, in March they earnt half of what they received last year.

April's budgeted $13,500 income became $1000 and in May, when she and her husband hoped to bring in $30,000, they received $1600.

While they have received Jobkeeper, they didn't have time to prepare the paperwork for the state government's $10,000 Small Business Adaption Grants.

"We received the email on May 2 and had to have everything in by May 5, over the Labour Day long weekend," she said.

Back in a type of drought

The Tomlinsons are off the land at Westwood in central Queensland and purchased the park 19 months ago as a retirement project.

"When the coronavirus shutdown happened we said, we're back in drought," she said. "Most of our customers are grey nomads and business won't pick up without the borders open."

Announcing the $100m small business package, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said her government knew small businesses, which represent 97 per cent of all businesses, were doing it really tough due to the pandemic.

"We want to make sure our thousands of small businesses have the support they need to recover and keep Queenslanders in jobs," she said. "These grants will provide immediate support to help them get back on their feet and come out stronger on the other side."

Falling through the cracks

Mr Last said the grants were about helping business to move online.

"If you are a pub or a café, an online presence isn't going to pay your staff.

"In New South Wales, for example, the small business grant can be used for meeting business costs such as utilities and rent; in Queensland it can't and that is a glaring omission."

Other assistance available through the overall $500m Worker Assistance Package includes rent relief for government building tenants, land tax relief for commercial property owners, payroll tax relief, and $500 energy rebates.

"There's a lot of help there for the big guys but what's there for the grassroots level," Mr Last asked. "Particularly those in small rural towns - they were hurting before this happened, and now this has sledgehammered them."

He called on the government to put more money into the fund, saying it had been clearly over-subscribed, and said a lot of businesses were falling through the cracks because they weren't meeting the eligibility criteria.

In Tambo, hotel owner Kerri Ryan said the Jobkeeper allowance of $1500 a fortnight didn't cover her power bill.

"I didn't qualify for the $10,000 boost because I didn't have any PAYG payments in March, so this doesn't help self-employed people," she said.

"I don't draw wages, and there's been no drought assistance for small businesses.

"This year was going to be my pick-up year - with a bit of grass around, good prices for stock, I was expecting lots of events to be on and some money to come in.

"I guess the world is in the same position as me."

The story Small business falling through COVID cracks: Dale Last first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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