‘Empty shopfronts’: Albanese accuses Coalition of leaving business behind

interview question boot small business

Source: AAP/Lukas Coch.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has accused the government of leaving Australian businesses behind as a ‘light lockdown’ and low consumer confidence keeps customers away.

“One of the things you notice around any shopping centre in the country is the number of empty shopfronts and business is really doing it tough,” Albanese told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

“You’ve had consumer confidence in decline. You’ve had people essentially imposing their own restrictions on their activity and that’s really hurting small business.”

Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter agreed that business has been “crying out for support” amid Omicron’s stranglehold during what is, for many, usually their busiest time of year.

Hunter says the new variant has had “dramatic impacts” on operations in NSW, pointing to a recent survey that found 40% of businesses had just enough cashflow to last them for the next three months.

Albanese says the conditions last year that warranted federal support were clearly back, so “why is it that this support has been completely withdrawn?” he asked.

It comes as Labor’s has inched ahead of the Coalition for the first time as the preferred party to lead Australia out of the pandemic — that’s according to The Australian’s latest Newspoll, which also found confidence in Prime Minister Scott Morrison was at a record low.

The poll, which spoke to 1526 people, found the combined Liberal-Nationals have 34% support (which fell two points), while Labor is at 41% (it climbed three). A third (33%) of those surveyed said Labor would do a better job of handling our pandemic recovery, 1% ahead of the Coalition.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg waved away any suggestion the Coalition should be worried about the poll, saying “many obituaries were written by those in the media and our political opponents [in 2019] who got ahead of themselves”, an apparent reference to the 50-consecutive Newspolls that predicted a Labor government before the Coalition won the federal election.

Frydenberg conceded the Newspoll results did send a message that “many Australians continue to do it very tough” but he rejected assertions the federal government had given NSW the cold shoulder when asked to go 50:50 on the state’s new business aid package — a revamped JobSaver with a few new caveats.

“We pick up the tab of up to $750 a week for the pandemic leave payment if you have to take time off work because you’re a designated close contact or indeed if you’ve got COVID. Now around $170 million has already been distributed to more than 200,000 people in NSW with that payment alone,” he says.

“We’re moving to more normalised settings, but I do point out that South Australia just yesterday announced their own small business package, and they never came to the Commonwealth asking for financial support. They met the costs themselves.”

But NSW Treasurer Matt Kean seemed to echo Albanese’s sentiments this morning, doubling down on earlier comments where he referred to the federal government’s “austerity agenda”.

“A lot of small businesses across the country would say they’re doing it tough. I don’t think now is the right time for austerity, now is the right time to make sure we protect the fabric of the economy,” he told ABC radio this morning.

In a comment that requires some mental gymnastics to comprehend, Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce queried why Kean asked for federal support considering the NSW government had not split the Commonwealth’s $63 billion package for pandemic aid.

“Do you want to split that with us? If you just chuck that in our account, we’ll give you the money, no problem in the world,” he said.

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Mike Hutcheson
Mike Hutcheson
3 months ago

…. I remember driving to sydney when Rudd and Gillard ran the country and saw hundreds of vacant shopfronts with CLOSED FOREVER signs on their windows …. that was the financial “pandemic” … Labor did stuffing nothing to help THOSE businesses!!!!?

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