The Federal Government is considering a radical suite of measures to effectively put the economy into hibernation, allowing businesses to emerge after the coronavirus crisis, and resume and rehire without crippling debts.
As the Government prepares to unveil its third economic rescue package “within days”, policies are being developed to help business owners see out the crisis without having to walk away from their companies.
Banks, lenders and landlords would all be asked to wear some of the pain, waiving all overheads including rents and mortgage repayments for at least the next six months.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, speaking after National Cabinet, said he would announce plans to help businesses hibernate within days.
“The idea is simple — there are businesses which will have to close their doors,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
“They will have to keep them closed either because we have made it necessary for them to do so, or simply there is just not the business to keep their doors open.
“We want those businesses to start again. And we do not want, over the course of the next six months or as long as it takes, for those businesses to be so saddled by debt, so saddled by rental payments, so saddled by other liabilities, that they will not be able to start again on the other side.”
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann called on all Australians to pull together.
“The key here is to come up with a fair and equitable way to spread the pain, so that everyone has the best possible opportunity to be there on the other side,” he said.
“That is not easy.”
As the global catastrophe caused by COVID-19 continues to escalate, Mr Morrison spoke to the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies last night.
There are fears some countries could collapse and the Government is exploring ways of helping its Pacific neighbours.
In Australia, Treasury has been asked to look at “all options” to keep the economy afloat but Senator Cormann has ruled out a UK-style wage subsidy scheme, arguing it would not work in Australia.
Instead, the Government has doubled the unemployment benefit, by introducing a new $550 a fortnight supplement, and has indicated more support is on the way.
Morrison keen to keep people in work as long as possible
National Cabinet is expected to sign off on relief for commercial and residential renters, with state leaders moving to prevent evictions during the downturn.
In the past week alone, pubs, clubs, beauticians, tattoo parlours, casinos, auction houses, play centres, galleries, libraries and gyms have been forced to close their doors, to help stop the spread of the virus, putting hundreds of thousands of Australians out of work.
All sectors of the economy are feeling the pain. Hair salons and retailers are choosing to shut, before government shutdowns are imposed.
Mr Morrison is keenly aware that economic shutdowns can have dire social consequences, which explains why he is determined to keep as many people in work for as long as possible.
When asked why Australia had not yet been placed in a “total lockdown”, Mr Morrison recently cautioned “be careful what you wish for”.