A coalition of Australia’s peak retail industry groups have released a five-point plan to save Australian small businesses and retailers from the catastrophic impact of the latest round of COVID lockdowns.

The National Retail Association (NRA), Franchising Council of Australia (FCA), and the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) have unveiled the following plan for business survival and are seeking its endorsement from National Cabinet:

1. JobKeeper 3.0: The first two JobKeeper programs met their objectives to support business and job survival, preserve employment relationships, and provide needed income support. A targeted JobKeeper 3.0 program would continue to provide assistance to the most affected businesses and support economic recovery.

2. Emergency cash payments: Debt-trapped small businesses need access to emergency cash payments to have funds available to pay immediate creditors, rent and remain solvent.

3. ATO to defer lodgements and outstanding payments for debt-trapped businesses: There is record collectible debt owed to the Australian Taxation Office of $21 billion – well over half of this collectible debt is held by just 6.4 per cent of SMEs. With these small businesses struggling to meet their tax obligations, now is not the time for the ATO to trigger any action which could take them under.

4. Banking payment deferrals: Banks provided welcome relief and support during 2020 to Australian businesses experiencing hardship. With lockdowns and government restrictions in place across Australia, banks again need to provide support and payment deferrals to stranded businesses.

5. National Leasing Code of Conduct mark 2: Constitutionally, commercial leasing arrangements sit within the remit of the states and territories. In March 2020, National Cabinet signed off on the National Leasing Code of Conduct. Currently, retail businesses in the same trading predicament as they were in March 2020, without the cash reserves they may have been able to call on last year. These businesses have the same or worse drop in turnover right now and are being asked to pay 100 per cent of their commercial rent with no support. We are calling for a short-term reinstatement of the National Leasing Code of Conduct, which concluded in March this year with JobKeeper.

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