Chief Minister Michael Gunner says he’s “buying time” with taxpayer money to wait out the coronavirus pandemic in the Northern Territory and expects businesses to continue to “take a whack” for at least 18 months.
Mr Gunner was trumpeting the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program for employers and said it would help 6800 Territory businesses keep 45,000 Territorians in work during the pandemic.
He also rehashed his own Small Business Survival Fund and Jobs Rescue and Recovery Package that will cost $115 million combined and aims to provide funding and support to small Territory businesses and stimulus measures for local tradies.
But Mr Gunner said he could not say with any certainty what the economic picture will look like in two month’s time.
“Where we are going and what happens next is extremely difficult to do modelling around that,” he said. “But what we do know is that the Territory economy and the Australian economy is going to take a very big hit.”
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The NT Government’s figures show the federal JobKeeper program will deliver an estimated $870 million to Territory workers over the next six months. The Territory programs will provide roughly $120 million.
Mr Gunner said he was looking at other measures to provide relief and was open to suggestions.
“You’ve just got to buy time right now,” he said. “The time we’re looking at is around six months. What can I do during that time to make sure businesses don’t fall over, that people stay sane – that’s my focus.”
He later amended the forecast to 18 months.
“It’s going to be an 18-month whack on Territory businesses,” he said.
Opposition CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro reiterated her suggestion that the Chief Minister immediately implement relief measures that would increase cash flow for Territory business.
“I’ve been calling on the Labor Government to be agile and consider implementing payroll tax and utility relief for small and medium businesses to create immediate cash flow and increase their likelihood of keeping employees,” she said.
“Every day counts and now more than ever we need to keep people employed.”
Mr Gunner pledged funds from the small business survival fund would start to flow by the end of the week, which is expected to help more than 260 local businesses.
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