RADIO

Australia Today with Steve Price

“The gap is enormous in terms of their knowledge, their understanding and their empathy. No one’s paid a bigger price financially, emotionally and a mental health perspective, then small business families.”

Bill Lang joined Steve Price from Australia Today to discuss the latest in lockdown funding for small businesses.

Listen to the audio segment or read the full transcript below.

Steve Price 

Bill Lang joins us, executive director Small Business Australia. What did you make of that package yesterday Bill? Good morning.

Bill Lang 

Ah g’day Steve, well, it’s a positive start, goes some of the way to what’s needed. It’s a shame that it’s so late, that it hadn’t been worked out months and months and months ago. But at least, you know, small business families in New South Wales can start going straight to the federal government’s website and New South Wales website and start making applications and I’d encourage them to apply for anything they might possibly think they are eligible for. Because we do see these things consistently end up changing in terms of when they start to look at the application of them. But look, it’s it’s positive to see the federal government and the state government doing what we’ve been asking for since the beginning of the pandemic, which is a 50/50 approach, so that they so they demonstrate that they’re in it together, rather than the mudslinging and name calling that’s typically been going on between premiers and the federal government.

Steve Price 

I guess you guys will go in there today and try and work out whether it was complicated or not. There was already some confusion over this definition of payroll reduction, what you’re comparing that payroll back to, you’re comparing it back to a year ago, which would be pretty silly, given we’re in the middle of a pandemic in 2020, do you take it back to 2019? I understand Josh frydenberg cleared that up. And entities will be eligible if their turnover is 30%, lower than an equivalent two week period in 2019. We’re stretching stuff back a fair way now, aren’t we to work out what you’ve lost,

Bill Lang 

Ah look Steve, it’s, you know, every time they design these things, they talk about it being targeted and appropriate and all these sorts of politicians type words, it’s always good news for the accountants, because they make things too complicated. We philosophically believe that things need to be simple, they need to be fairer, and therefore there’ll be better. So this is very complicated but nevertheless, it’s worth the effort of every small business family in New South Wales to talk with their accountant, read what’s on the internet and get some applications in. Because if we go back to JobKeeper last year, you know, when they started learning in Canberra, that I didn’t really understand that a sole trader is a legal construct, you can be a sole trader structure and have multiple employees, as opposed to when you hear the word sole trader, most people think it’s just one person just working, you know, by themselves, you know, for their customers. So it’s complicated, but at least it’s there. It’s too late, of course, like we’re 16 months into the pandemic now. So, you know, the other the other positive thing we heard yesterday was that this is now going to be the go forward approach, with respect to the national framework for zones and lockdowns, and all the rest of it, because it’s one of the things that every small business has been crying out for, if you’re going to go lockdown, at that same time, announce exactly what support will be available so that there is some certainty, as opposed to the ongoing pain of uncertainty around what’s going to be available, when’s it going to be available? So we’re at the sort of end of week three, you know, by all accounts, it looks like, you know, people in Sydney could be in for another few weeks. But at least for both the state government there and the federal government, get the money into the small business bank accounts, ASAP.

Steve Price 

One of the things that worries me about this Bill, and I’m sure you’ve looked at this, as you say, this will be a template going forward. So if Victoria were to go into a lockdown, next month, God forbid, or South Australia or anywhere, Queensland, these things kick in, when the lockdown gets into a fourth week. Now, New South Wales will most definitely go into a fourth week. But if you’re running a mum and dad cafe, where you lose four weeks of trade, as someone pointed out to me yesterday, the people who are your loyal customers don’t come in in once you get your relief that I’d come in, once you back up and running, and have five times more coffee than they would normally have. Because you’re suddenly back working properly, you’ve lost that four weeks. So under this template, if I’m not miss reading it, you’ve got to write off three weeks of trade before you get anything.

Bill Lang 

Steve, it’s a very different life living up in Canberra, or getting out and having a cup of coffees, you might be working from home going into your odd Microsoft team meeting.

Steve Price 

Yeah, there’re all being paid by the tax payer. They haven’t lost a cent.

Bill Lang 

The gap between life outside of Canberra and people say people have got businesses in the Melbourne CBD area, you know now in the Greater Sydney Area. The gap is enormous in terms of their knowledge, their understanding and their empathy. No one’s paid a bigger price financially, emotionally and a mental health perspective, then small business families. Now here in Melbourne is already you know, 20% of the places that were open for business in the CBD of Melbourne, over 16 months ago are now closed and many of those are absolutely gone for good. So let’s be very clear and your listeners appreciate this. That’s who’s been paying the biggest cost. Not people getting an ongoing salary, some of them actually getting pay rises, low interest rates, their debts are down, the value of their properties are going up. The only only impact on them is maybe they can’t have their, their their holiday overseas, or they can’t go into state or, you know, leave Victoria to get some warmth in Queensland, the real cost are being borne by small business families, the governments of all levels are a long way behind, let me say that the New South Wales Government of all state governments is providing more assistance than any of the other states. So that’s a very much a positive for the small businesses in that state. But you know, I’ve already seen the Victorian Government, you know, mouthing off to the federal government, why wasn’t this sort of thing in place with Victoria, you know, they’re playing favourites, et cetera, et cetera, with the other 50/50 approaches a way to do it, because we know that the federal government’s policies and the quality of their implementation on vaccines and quarantine, etc, the state government policies and the quality of their implementation, having a driver is not wearing a mask, you know, not actually vaccinated. So like, this is not rocket science, but both levels of government are responsible for the decisions, the policies and the quality of implementation. It’s time for them to really step up and say, you know, what, why should the Small Business families, Menzies forgotten people, why are they having to pay the greatest price of everyone in Australia? Who are you know, we’ve been thrown overboard Steve, there’s more to be done. But it is a positive start and it is welcomed in terms of what we heard yesterday.

Steve Price 

Yeah, well said Bill, always a pleasure to catch up. Thank you very much.

Bill Lang 

Thank you Steve.

Looking for more radio interviews? Click to view all our news items.

Radio segments