25 March 2020
(Debate on Bills, 24 March 2020, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I support the Treasury Legislation Amendment (COVID-19) Bill 2020 and thank the Treasurer for the urgent work he has done on this legislation and the support for NSW Health. The bill will provide small and medium businesses with much-needed payroll tax relief, whether it is waiving or deferring payments, or increasing thresholds. As someone who used to run a small business and had a payroll tax liability on a quarterly basis, I understand the importance this will mean to many businesses and the way in which it will allow them to keep staff employed for longer. The bill also allows workers and employers to agree to allow staff to access long service leave earlier. This removes the financial liability from the employers and allows an employee to have a break from work while still receiving income. This is also a very important measure.
As the Treasurer said, we are in a health crisis but we are also in an economic crisis. People are losing their jobs and their income, and businesses are going under. Over the weekend I spoke to friends who are small business owners, people who are cleaners, people who run laundromats and people who are CEOs. The entire community is concerned about what lies ahead. It is crucial that the Government undertakes strategic workforce planning to help manage the massive shifts that are happening in the workforce during this pandemic. While large numbers of people are losing their jobs, some industries such as groceries, logistics and medical manufacturing are gearing up. This is an important role for Treasury, whether it be through Jobs for NSW or another body, to coordinate with Government and unions to facilitate the massive shift that is occurring in employment. This function can help us prepare for future shifts in the workforce, be they from increased automation or transitioning energy supply and resources beyond this crisis.
It is critical that during this pandemic the public service remains a large employer and, if it can be, expanded. The more people with steady jobs and income, the more consumer spending there is to help keep the economy afloat. I thank the Minister for Customer Service for agreeing to allow bars in pubs and other licensed venues to provide delivery and takeaway services. Innovative measures like this can go a long way to helping businesses continue to trade and keep staff employed. I understand that the residential and commercial rental protections are forthcoming and hope they will include protections for renters and incentives for landlords. I look forward to seeing how the National Cabinet addresses this. We must not forget other forms of less secure housing, particularly dodgy boarding houses, where landlords may use the increase in the JobSeeker payment and increase in demand for low-cost housing to raise rents. Boarding house protections must also be included.
As we all know, as members of Parliament we are the lucky ones. We have stable and ongoing employment. It is imperative that we do what we can for people who have lost their jobs and their income. The measures in the bill will go a long way towards keeping and creating jobs, but this will not be easy. I know the Treasurer is committed to an ongoing process to addressing this economic crisis as it unfolds. The combination of measures in this bill and the Attorney General's bill means that the Government should have no qualms over accelerating the shutdown of human movement and interaction in the near future.
There is support in the two bills before the House, stimulus coming from local, State and Federal governments and JobSeeker payments have been doubled. Councils can meet by phone. Cocktails can be delivered to your home. Personal trainers are doing video classes. Rental relief and protections are on the way. All levels of government have put in place measures that now allow people to stay home and stay away from each other. We know that limiting human-to-human contact will reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. We need to act before the situation gets dire, as has occurred elsewhere. I commend the bill to the House.
The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 provides Ministers with extraordinary powers around justice, health, planning, local government and trade. These are extraordinary times and these powers are important to ensuring social distancing can take place across all parts of society. This is the most vital measure to keep the community safe. I thank all Government Ministers, members and staff for being so responsive to ideas and requests for help during this time. I thank the Minister for Local Government and her office for providing ways to keep local government operating and using technology in acknowledging the role of Local Government NSW and the City of Sydney in suggestions and also the contribution of councillors Harriet Price and Pauline Lockie, who both raised the need for teleconferencing after their council meetings were cancelled.
Measures in the bill will enable local government elections to be postponed. This is vital. Now is not the time for political campaigns. Now is the time to address the health and economic crisis we are all facing. I acknowledge and thank the Attorney General and the Government for addressing this urgent situation and recognising that we may need to come back to extend or improve measures in this bill. I appreciate the Government's openness to this during this unprecedented time. The measures in this bill will ensure that the enforcement and adherence to social distancing can be met. I commend the bill to the House.