[VIDEO] Studio 10
“If we do have to lockdown the people that are bearing the biggest financial cost, which is small business people, they need to be fully compensated because they are funding to the extent that they’re still in business or having to borrow more money, more than 100,000 have already sold their houses in Australia, due to the pandemic over the last 15 months. It’s coming out of their pocket, and in some cases, they’re walking away.” – Bill Lang, Small Business Australia
You can watch the segment via the following YouTube video or read the highlights of the transcript below.
Sarah Harris – Studio 10
Now Melbourne, small businesses are bracing for another seven days of heartache as the city enters a week long lockdown extension. Joining us from his hometown is Bill Lang, Executive Director of Small Business Australia. Bill, it’s great to have your company this morning. Is Melbourne going to remain your hometown? Or like dozens of other business operators, are you thinking about leaving?
Bill Lang – Small Business Australia
Look, thanks, Sarah, look, there are many business owners who are able to, you know, operate their business increasingly online, and many are thinking about, well, you know, is there a better place than, you know, Melbourne itself to live? Is regional Victoria more attractive? There are a number of others that need warehousing facilities, and those sorts of infrastructure, and they’re thinking about New South Wales, they’re thinking about Queensland. So I’m a Victorian through and through. The Lang’s have been in Victoria for more than 160 years. So I’ll be staying. But there are a number seriously looking at moving out of Melbourne, and in fact, have already moved interstate.
That’s sad, isn’t it?
Tristan MacManus – Studio 10
It’s it’s incredibly sad. And it’s a great loss like small business people, you know, they’re made, they’re not born. And so over growing up in small business families, learning how to take risks and employ people and innovate, learn by doing. That experience set, losing them to other states in particular, that is what’s going to be a great loss for Victoria.
Where do you sit at Bill? I mean, do you support the lockdown? And are you talking to the government about it, and more importantly, do you feel as though you’re being heard?
Look in terms of the lockdown, we don’t really get full information on what’s going on, we continue to hear a lot of hype, everything’s like ‘stranger to stranger’ that it appears that they want the citizens scared. So we don’t really know what the facts are and what the truth is. But one thing is, we’re 15 months into a pandemic. And it’s going to be around for a long, long time based on what all the world experts say in this space. So if we do have to lockdown the people that are bearing the biggest financial cost, which is small business people, they need to be fully compensated because they are funding to the extent that they’re still in business, or having to borrow more money, more than 100,000 have already sold their houses in Australia, due to the pandemic over the last 15 months. It’s coming out of their pocket, and in some cases, they’re walking away. So look Tristan, if if the government decides that their response is lockdown, at the very same time, adequate, direct, easy to get financial payments and compensation should be made so that it’s not the business owners and their families, disproportionately bearing the financial costs, not to mention the significant mental health costs.
Yeah, the Victorian Government Bill announced initially a $250 million support package for small businesses. And then earlier this week, it added another couple of 100 million dollars. What are your thoughts about that support package? I mean, it’s a big chunk, but when you consider that the economy in Victoria is losing a billion dollars a week for every week, they’re in lockdown. The numbers don’t quite stack up, do they?
Well look, it’s a very good point Sarah, it’s a big, that sounds like a big number, doesn’t it? $250 million. That’s but you know, $1,000 million, is what the cost is of week one. And that’s, and when we say the economy loses it, that’s business owners that are still having to pay wages and salaries, that are still paying rent, paying insurance. And in certain industries have no customers coming in, they’ve been told they cannot actually open. Now I was just talking with a pizza shop operator here in Melbourne only yesterday. And his sales are down 50% compared to the last lockdowns and he largely does take away and delivery. So in his case, he can still operate the takeaway and delivery. But you know, Victorians have been frightened, they’ve been scared. And so they don’t know how long this thing’s going to last. But again, it’s small business families that are bearing the biggest financial cost and mental health costs associated with going to lock downs.
Can you see Bill, how many small businesses may hit the wall and I’m being forced to close? It’s hard to put a number on it, I guess.
Yeah look, it varies by industry, by location in the state and by the size of the business Tristan. And so, you know, our estimates are so far of the 500,000 to 600,000, we may have had 15 months ago in Victoria, we’ve lost at least 60,000 to possibly 80,000 already. Now in regional Victoria, now that they’re able to open back up again, if you’ve got a small business there and you mainly earn all of your revenue or most of your revenue from locals, you know, you’re going to be okay. But many rely upon visitors from Melbourne, visitors from interstate, visitors from overseas. Many rely upon international students for a big chunk of their revenue. So you know if you’re not getting that in, but your costs are still the same in terms of rent and insurance and those other things. Unfortunately, many will have to close.
Yeah, and I’d imagine everyone’s mind is what can we do about this and what you’ve done about it, you’ve launched a Save Our Small Businesses Petition and what are you calling on the government to do and where can people find it?
Yeah well, I think the first thing Tristan we want to thank every Australian who’s been buying local, who’s been supporting their local businesses. And if you’re buying things online think also now about buying from Victoria in the same way we do when there’s bushfires and droughts and floods. And we support those very hard hit businesses in those situations. But in terms of what we’re asking the governments for, we’re really saying all governments here in Australia, rather than, you know, throwing sand at each other and, and arguing about things, these small business families need direct, adequate and immediate financial assistance. So we’ve created a petition, it’s called save our small businesses, the websites really easy to remember, www.sosbiz.com.au, we’re asking every Australian to come over and show some support. And they will they will be putting the numbers of people knows details in front of all the state and all the federal politicians. It’s time for them to get together and save our small businesses.
Really well said, Bill. We know that small businesses are the backbone of this great country of ours, thanks so much for joining us and make sure you go ahead and sign that petition. Thanks again.
Thanks, Sarah. Thank you Tristan.
Stay safe, Bill.