THE Coalition government’s JobKeeper program is no more, but business leaders in Geelong and the Surf Coast say it will take weeks if not months for the impact of the end of the wage subsidy scheme to become clear.
The scheme wound up on March 28, as the Coalition had been flagging for months, despite calls from some business sectors and federal Labor for JobKeeper to be extended again.
Treasury estimated between 100,000 to 150,000 jobs would be lost when JobKeeper ended, but Geelong Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Ben Flynn hoped that was the worst-case scenario.
“I must admit, we’re all in the dark about JobKeeper,” Mr Flynn said.
“There’s a sense of foreboding, but we temper that with over the past 12 months, we’ve always expected the worst and at times been pleasantly surprised, and at times not.
“Most people in reality are unaffected as most people have weaned off it.
“But we do have to empathise with those industries – the arts, hospitality, tourism – who have been so hardest hit and will continue to be hit and aren’t getting the targeted support they need.
“I imagine you’ll be looking at a six-month or 12-month period to see the end result.”
Commerce Torquay president Jeff Crow said the timing of JobKeeper’s end ahead of the traditionally active Easter period could provide a buffer of sorts of businesses into May or even June.
“If this came in after Easter, and everything was in the process of slowing down, I think we’d see a few more jobs going.
“But knowing that we’ve got two weeks being busy and a lot of places will struggle for quality and quantity of staff this year, I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of places giving up staff just yet.
“But I don’t think anyone’s waited until March 29 and said ‘Okay, now what do we do?’, I think everyone’s had enough time to prepare for this.
“I can’t see there being any effect for a few weeks at least.”
Business and Tourism Anglesea president Damien Cerantonio agreed, and said determining the impact would not be as easy as looking at job losses in May.
“If you go back for the past 50 years, there are always going to be job losses after Easter, but we’re not going to see a drastic rise in vacant shops and businesses closing,” Mr Cerantonio said.
He said JobKeeper’s end would put pressure on business regardless of when it stopped.
“Whether it ended today or in six months, people would say ‘Extend it again, extend it again’.
“I think businesses are okay with JobKeeper ending, but I think the lockdown issue is a bigger issue.
“Even though those cheap flight deals have been announced, the majority of people still aren’t confident to book an interstate holiday.”
He said the return of events would help businesses through the winter, as would spending on infrastructure to drive the economy.
“In terms of hotels, restaurants and attractions, we’ve all been given 12 months to work things out,” Mr Cerantonio said.
“So I think the argument would be that if your business isn’t going to survive now, it isn’t necessarily going to survive in three months.”