It’s hard to believe it was only 79 days ago that Australia recorded its first case of COVID-19.
As rapidly as the virus has spread, our nation has been up to the challenge, responding quickly and forcefully on both the health and economic fronts.
It hasn’t always looked pretty. But pretty is no substitute for effective, and with indications of a flattening infection curve, and a formidable wall of economic defence being built, brick by brick, by state and federal governments, we have good reason to be optimistic about the future.
Still, many challenges remain. More people will still get sick – some critically, some fatally – and feel the economic impact. But we will come through this stronger if each of us contributes whatever we can.
This economic challenge is unlike any other. The health crisis has made it unsafe for people to work and spend as usual, so ordinary “stimulus” – to pump up spending – isn’t much use. More money doesn’t solve the safety problem.
At the same time, cash flow is a problem – households and businesses still have to meet financial obligations like mortgage payments and rent.
As a Government, our economic objective is to keep people in jobs and businesses in business.
In NSW we have responded with the largest economic support package of any state, to help keep the cash flowing.
In addition to $4 billion in payroll tax reductions and deferrals, a $1 billion Working for NSW job creation fund, and tens of millions in waived business fees, we have established the Small Business Support Fund, a $750 million fund offering $10,000 grants for eligible businesses to help meet running costs.
It’s the largest support package for small businesses in our state’s history, providing real, rapid relief for thousands of businesses that don’t benefit from payroll tax cuts.
Today we take the next step, with around $440 million in land tax relief split across the residential and commercial rental markets, to support tenants struggling to pay the rent, and landlords whose incomes are affected.
We will implement the mandatory national code recently announced by the Prime Minister, which protects commercial tenants by temporarily prohibiting rent increases and lease terminations for non-payment of rent where tenants are impacted by COVID-19.
The code also requires landlords and tenants to negotiate rent relief arrangements, which we will facilitate by offering mediation via the NSW Small Business Commissioner.
To support the implementation of the code and further cushion the impact for landlords, our Government will also offer land tax concessions if the tax saving is passed on to tenants through a rent reduction, with a further three-month land tax deferral also on offer.
The policy targets business tenants with an annual turnover of less than $50 million and experiencing at least a 30 per cent reduction in revenue as a result of COVID-19.
My colleague Kevin Anderson, Minister for Better Regulation, will separately oversee residential tenancies, providing relief to tenants and landlords affected by COVID-19.
Our plan complements relief already promised by banks to borrowers, and the Commonwealth to employers and workers, and the outcome depends on everyone shouldering some of the burden – governments, banks, landlords, tenants and taxpayers. And it remains critical – and obligatory – for those who still can pay rent to keep doing so.
If we all do our bit, we will keep thousands of households and businesses afloat, maintaining the structural integrity of our economy so we can bounce back strong when the health crisis is over.