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Bring Back JobKeeper, Says ARA As Lockdown Bites

JobKeeper needs to make a comeback, says the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) as Melbourne’s latest lockdown is extended by another week.

With the new outbreak set to cost Victorian retail more than $2 billion in lost trade, and 33 days of state-imposed lockdowns having taken place in Australia so far this year, ARA CEO Paul Zahra says ongoing financial assistance is needed to help businesses and workers weather the storm and sandbag against future disruption.

Paul Zahra, ARA.

“A week ago, our economic recovery was on track – business confidence was at record highs and the Melbourne CBD was getting its mojo back. We were starting to think that the worst of Covid was behind us.

“Sadly, that’s not the case and our thoughts are with our Victorian friends, families and the small businesses who are battling through the current lockdown. We understand and respect the importance of these health imperatives, however it’s a bitter blow for the people of Victoria who’ve suffered more than most through this pandemic,” he said.

Zahra slammed the “blame game” between the Federal and Victorian State Governments, acknowledging that both the federal vaccine rollout and Victoria’s contact tracing system have issues, but insisting the focus needs to be on finding a solution that supports both individuals and businesses.

According to Zahra, JobKeeper should be reimplemented as a lifeline that can be activated whenever there is a fresh lockdown in any state or territory.

“Victoria can’t do this alone. The Federal Government has done a great job to keep businesses afloat through JobKeeper and we need them to step up to the plate again.

“We believe a reintroduction of a scheme like JobKeeper, which is targeted at those most in need, would be the simplest and easiest measure to implement, given the back-end systems are already known and worked well for a year. The scheme should be targeted – just for those negatively impacted by lockdowns,” said Zahra.

The ARA is also calling on Victoria to reconsider its recently-announced payroll tax surcharge.

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