COVID-hit businesses losing hope: Qld LNP

Laine Clark |

Queensland’s small businesses are at risk of withering on the vine LNP leader David Crisafulli says.
Queensland’s small businesses are at risk of withering on the vine LNP leader David Crisafulli says.

The Queensland Opposition has called for the state government to provide support for COVID-hit small businesses, saying they have been left to “wither on the vine”.

Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli says owners and operators across the state were losing hope during the “lockdown you have when you are not having a lockdown”.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk last week urged Queenslanders to stay at home for six weeks to slow the COVID-19 spread as they brace for a “short, sharp wave” of cases in late January.

Mr Crisafulli said small businesses were now battling due to the “double whammy” of a lack of patronage and staff shortages brought on by COVID-19.

The Queensland government last weekend relaxed some virus restrictions, announcing close contacts would be allowed out of isolation to work if their job is critical for food supply or emergency services.

Mr Crisafulli says the Palaszczuk government must either ease close contact rules for small businesses as well, or provide a compensation package.

“Small businesses and staff tell us this is the lockdown you have when you are not having a lockdown,” he said.

“The only difference is this time there is no support package, they have been left to wither on the vine.

“Either the same rules that apply to essential industries apply to other businesses or they need a helping hand to get over the line – there is no in-between otherwise you won’t have a small and family business sector left after this period.”

Caloundra’s Drift Bar co-owner Monique Savage said her business may soon become “unsustainable”.

“We have had at least 50 per cent of our staff off, the majority are close contacts,” she said.

“Owning a small business is pretty much disastrous right now. If the current situation continues it will be unsustainable for many of us.”

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland says close contact rules, ongoing international border closures and limited migration have put enormous pressure on the state’s workforce.

It has made a submission to the Department of Home Affairs recommending an overseas migration increase, focusing on bringing employee-sponsored migrants.

“Businesses told us they were forced to offer more competitive wages to attract and maintain skilled workers in a competitive labour market,” CCIQ’s Amanda Rohan said.

“We know other businesses have been forced to amend their trading hours or capacity and in some cases not open at all due to a lack of staff caused through a combination of COVID isolation requirements and an inability to fill roles because of a tight labour market.

“Without the reintroduction of overseas migrants, businesses will lack the employees they require to keep their doors open and the economy will have greater difficulty recovering in the wake of COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said it would take time for rule changes to take effect allowing close contacts who are critical essential workers to leave home quarantine and go to work.