Businesses call for post-JobKeeper support

Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
·2-min read

A prominent business leader has joined growing calls to support struggling companies once JobKeeper payments dry up.

The Morrison government is adamant the wage assistance scheme will end in March.

But it remains unclear what, if anything, will replace the taxpayer-funded program.

Tony Shepherd, who chaired Tony Abbott's controversial commission of audit on government spending, warned against adopting a broad-brush approach.

But the former Business Council of Australia president said sectors like aviation and hospitality were under tremendous stress.

"You have got to look at far more targeted support packages for these sectors that are really suffering," Mr Shepherd told Sky News on Monday.

"That can take two forms - grants or loans - just anything to keep them going."

The Australian Industry Group is concerned the country's climb out of recession has so far been more a policy-led bounce rather than a self-sustaining recovery.

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said the problem could be more pronounced when JobKeeper payments and other fiscal stimulus measures were withdrawn.

"There remains the risk that any recovery could stall, and business and consumer confidence could deteriorate during the second quarter of 2021," he said.

Last week, Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe conceded there could be some job shedding when wage subsidies were withdrawn, but said it would occur when the economy was otherwise recovering.

Even so, Mr Willox, like Mr Shepherd, is calling for new measures to address the risk of a premature wind-down of fiscal support.

"There is no sign that adopting such measures would place prices or wages pressure on the economy," he said.

Alongside targeted support for businesses and employees still reeling from coronavirus, the AiGroup wants additional budget measures to help firms employ and retain apprentices, trainees and cadets.

"The 2021/22 budget is an opportunity to take further steps to address underlying fragilities in the economy that were evident well before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis," Mr Willox said.

He said there needed to be a concerted effort to modernise education and training, energy efficiencies through promoting hydrogen, and federal support for the states and territories to expand quarantine capacities.