Big savings to provide post-JobKeeper buffer

January 21, 2021 BY

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (left) makes a coffee at Bomboras, as Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson and Bomboras co-owner Josh McGrath look on. Photo: JAMES TAYLOR

THE federal Coalition is continuing to talk up the decreasing need for its JobKeeper wage subsidy, with Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson describing one Torquay restaurant as a “great JobKeeper success story”.

An extra $200 billion in personal and business savings is expected to provide some sort of buffer when the scheme ends in two months.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the better balance sheets would help Australia from falling off the “fiscal cliff” but some businesses would still become insolvent after the government’s emergency support measures were removed.

On Thursday last week, Mr Frydenberg and Senator Henderson visited Bomboras and Phoklore, two of a handful of restaurants run by Josh Friend and Tom McGrath.

Mr McGrath and Mr Friend had 20 employees supported by JobKeeper last year, but trade had improved in December to the point they no longer qualified for the fortnightly payments.

Mr Friend said he gave a “massive thank you” to JobKeeper and the other measures offered to small businesses.

“It’s good to see now that we’re off it and the economy is back to starting to boost in the region again, and it was a great incentive, and we’re just truly thankful that we’re one of the lucky ones to get through and be bigger and stronger for 2021.”

He said his businesses were hoping to make the most of the summer trade before the quieter winter period, the continuing absence of international tourists, and unpredictable state border closures.

“We always worry about what happens in winter. I think now, with the surrounding suburbs and everything else, hopefully there’ll be enough foot traffic still to come past.

“I think Torquay will still be a bit of a destination if the borders are closed before winter; people want to get out somewhere. So, we’re hoping in May, June and July, we’ll still see a rapid improvement.”

He said Bomboras was “one of the lucky businesses” as the restaurant had outdoor space that, unlike others, allowed it to keep trading during social distancing restrictions.

“There’s always a concern for that time of year (winter), maybe more so once JobKeeper does end.

“To be honest, we want to just get through this next couple of weeks, enjoy summer, enjoy the people around and hopefully we’ll have enough behind us to go forward in those quieter months.”

Mr Frydenberg said the extra $200 billion compared to this time last year was a function of not only increased government support but also increased savings.

“It’s not for me to tell (people) how to spend it, where to spend it, or when to spend it. What we do know is that money will be spent over time. That’s the history, that’s the experience of previous economic downturns, when people become cautious with their savings and their savings ratio goes up as we saw last year, that it does come down over time and that money does get spent.”

He said Treasury had forecast the unemployment rate would decline even after the JobKeeper payments stopped at the end of March.

“Certainly there will be some that have deferred their insolvencies from last year that may go into that position this year.

“But, overall, the economy will continue to strengthen, even when the temporary emergency measures come off, and that insolvency legislation that passed the Parliament will be a great support.”

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