“Historic” meeting a ray of hope to small-businesses ravaged by fires

Peter Strong, CEO of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) has described Tuesday afternoon’s round table about the impact of the ongoing fires on small business as a “historic” meeting.

Hosted by Senator Michaelia Cash, the Federal Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, the two-hour discussion was attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, representatives of peak bodies and industry groups, and small-business owners from across the bushfire-ravaged communities.

“The fact that there were people from businesses in many affected communities in the room was very important to the discussion,” Strong said. “It wasn’t just the normal faces we see from peak bodies, it was also the faces of people who have been living with these fires for days and weeks and continue to do so.”

Strong cautioned, however, that the meeting could only be truly deemed as “historic” if the Government measures, due to be announced imminently, delivers for the 300,000 plus business owners and their employees impacted by the fires.

“We need a package that really addresses the needs of the small-business community in both the immediate aftermath of the fires and in the long term,” Strong told Inside Small Business yesterday afternoon.

There were approximately 50 people in the Cabinet room where the meeting was held and another 50 or so dialled in on the phone to add their experiences and views on what is needed for small-business people. Representatives from the

affected communities including Bega, the Blue Mountains, Batemans Bay, the Central Coast, Cooma, Jindabyne, the Southern Highlands, Illawarra, Thredbo, Tumut, Bairnsdale, Bright and Kangaroo Island attended the meeting in person, with those from other affected communities participating by phone.

Topics discussed included cashflow, mental health, business downturn, bank loans, insurance, tourism impact and farmers. As was the hope of Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, when she spoke to Inside Small Business before the meeting, the issues facing the thousands of sole traders caught up in the crisis were also discussed with rent relief, rates relief, accountancy and bookkeeping advice and assistance all on the table.

The need for big business to pay small business invoices now, small business covering staff entitlements, marketing the affected areas as open for business and marketing Australia to foreign tourists also came up for discussion.

Alongside COSBOA and the ASBFEO in the room, industry bodies represented at the meeting included The Australian Hairdressing Council, Master Grocer’s Association, ACAPMA, Small business commissioners from Victoria, NSW and  Victoria, BCA, The Australian Banking Association, Australian Industry Group, ACCI and state chambers, Restaurant and Catering, Master Builders, Tourism Transport Forum, Australian Hotels Association, and the Australian Retailers Association.

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