The coronavirus presents a huge and ongoing concern for those who call regional Australia home.
We have endured a prolonged drought, a summer of bushfires and some areas have even been flooded in recent weeks.
COVID-19 has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization as it poses such a great threat to our nation.
Regional Australia in particular will be hard-hit given the distance some have to travel to access health services.
That said, our nation is well prepared as any to cope with these challenges and the Government will do all in its power to ensure we get through this crisis.
But what is important is people remain calm.
The last thing we need is panic.
Unless you are in a very particular set of circumstances, there is no need to change your daily routine.
The National Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy has made it clear – the best preventative measure you can take against infection is to practise good hygiene.
Wash your hands with soap and water and do it often.
Use a tissue and cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
Use an alcohol-based sanitiser.
Regional, rural and remote Australia may well be hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why the Federal Government is investing $1 billion to support the sectors in our regions and communities which have been and may be disproportionately impacted.
Industries such as tourism, agriculture and education will receive the most help. Measures will include additional assistance to help businesses identify alternative export markets or supply chains and the promotion of domestic tourism.
The affected industries and communities know best how the Government can most effectively help and so further plans and measures to support recovery will be designed and delivered in partnership with them.
This funding is a key part of our $17.6 billion economic plan to protect Australians as the world manages the spread of coronavirus.
This package is all about keeping Australians in jobs and helping small and medium-sized businesses stay in business.
Regional Australia will get through this crisis.
We have survived previous crises.
The package will support up to 6.5 million individuals and 3.5 million businesses.
The Federal Government will provide a one-off $750 stimulus payment to pensioners, social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. The payment will be tax free and will not count as income for Social Security, Farm Household Allowance and Veteran payments.
We know from experience payments such as these end up being spent and that’s a very good thing. Every dollar re-invested into our local communities is a dollar that’s going to help us get through these tough times.
Every single recipient of this payment – both those who live in regional Australia and those who do not – are encouraged to consider spending a portion of it in a business in the bush.
We are facing unprecedented challenges, but this stimulus presents a significant opportunity too. How good would it be if regional economies not only survived this outbreak, but strengthened, as a direct result of this stimulus being spent in and at local businesses?
Local businesses are the beating heart of country communities and we are doing everything possible to support them. We are boosting cash flow for them by up to $25,000 with a minimum payment of $2,000 for eligible small and medium-sized businesses.
The tax-free payment will provide cash flow support to businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million which employ staff, between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2020. That’s going to benefit around 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people.
When local businesses do it tough, their apprentices and trainees do it even tougher. That’s why we will spend $1.3 billion to help small businesses support the jobs of around 120,000 apprentices and trainees.
Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for up to 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. Where a small business is not able to retain an apprentice, the subsidy will be available to a new employer who employs that apprentice. We’ll always back our apprentices because they are the future of Australia.
Our economy will bounce back and Australia will prosper as it always has. Regional Australia’s resilience will come to the fore, as it always does and we will come through the other side.