Business says help ‘patchy’

• Clare Bourdet and Bernadette Mackay from Fremantle Opals say government incentives have kept them in work during the Covid shutdown. Photo by Steve Grant.

BUSINESS rescue packages aimed at getting traders through the Covid-19 pandemic have been patchy and hard to access, says Fremantle federal MP Josh Wilson.

Mr Wilson recently conducted a virtual ‘roundtable’ with the federal shadow minister for industry and small business Brendan O’Connor, Fremantle Chamber of Commerce CEO Danicia Quinlan and local traders to talk about how Covid had affected the local economy.

“The necessary health response to Covid-19 has put Fremantle’s economy at the sharp edge of this crisis, with a particular impact on key local sectors like entertainment and tourism, arts and culture, education and retail,” Mr Wilson said.

Businesses had been adaptable, stoic and creative but faced hurdles with programs like JobKeeper.

“The absence of a sensible and effective support package for arts, entertainment and media businesses and workers seems to reflect a chronic blindspot in relation to that vital part of our economic and social landscape,” Mr Wilson said.

Ms Quinlan said the webinar’s business participants highlighted the diversity of local businesses and how they were inter-connected.

But that diversity had also made it difficult to apply the relief measures consistently.

“I think local business has worked hard to navigate their way through the many options, pivot their businesses where they needed to and are hopefully now coming out the other side with more certainty and clarity of direction.

She says issues that have come up include:

• improving local procurement within businesses, local government and industry;

• the need for initiatives like JobKeeper and small business loan bank guarantees to fit existing business processes; 

• the importance of telecommunications and Australia Post in the post-Covid business world;

the role of creative industries coming out of the lockdown; and,

• the need for good leadership to help businesses adapt.

Clare Bourdet and Bernadette Mackay from Fremantle Opals told the Herald the messaging 

around JobKeeper was initially unclear and there was “tons of paperwork”.

They were initially told they didn’t qualify, but dug a little deeper and discovered that was based on a false assumption. Since then, Mr Bourdet says the payments have been a lifeline.

“It’s worked really well for all of us; we can still work and open the doors,” she said.

Ms Bourdet said 60 per cent of their business came from tourists before Covid hit, but there’s been a reasonable up-tick in online sales which has helped keep trade ticking over until the borders are reopened.

By STEVE GRANT

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