Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (12:30): My question is to the Premier. Premier, obviously the impact of COVID-19 is causing enormous concern across many communities, including in the Latrobe Valley. In the last 48 hours I have been contacted by a number of small and medium business owners who are extremely emotional and anxious about their futures. For example, the Premier Function Centre in Traralgon yesterday received 12 event cancellations. Without this income the owners, Celeste and Danny, face an uncertain future, particularly given that there are still bills and wages they have to pay. Premier, I know that this function centre is not the only business going through similar challenges. Are you able to advise what financial and taxation supports and assistance will be available to Victorian small and medium businesses throughout this crisis?
Mr ANDREWS (Mulgrave—Premier) (12:31): Can I thank the member for Morwell for his question and his obvious concern for the small businesses and families across his electorate. I would say the first thing that is available is obviously the various provisions that were outlined by the Prime Minister and others in the federal government and strongly supported by other first ministers last Friday at COAG. The stimulus package, together with the health package I mentioned only a few moments ago, is a very important series of measures as we see a really big hit to economic growth right across our state and the nation
— A member interjected.
Mr ANDREWS: and the world indeed. None of us are immune from the business and economic impacts of this global pandemic. There are a number of specific measures that are targeted to small business and larger businesses, but certainly small businesses have been a focus of the national government, and in that the national government has our full support. I am more than happy to provide further information to the member after question time in terms of specifics. They are developing and changing. There are elements of that package that still have not passed the federal Parliament, but I think it is pleasing to see that there will be bipartisan support offered at a national level, and I would hope that those measures can be passed and enacted and those payments can be made as quickly as possible. That is the sort of approach that all of us need to employ I think, and I would hope that commitments to that end are delivered in Canberra when they sit next week. The federal government have also made it clear that they are working on a further package, the exact nature of which we will have to wait and see. These matters will I think be discussed in some detail if not at the national cabinet meeting via secure video hook-up this evening then at a future meeting of the national cabinet. They will be occurring very, very frequently.
I am more than happy to get some further advice for the member for Morwell as to how small businesses in his community can access the national government’s package in the first instance. Beyond that, we are all I think unified in trying to work together in the development of that second national package, whenever that might be. I do not often do this, but I do want to thank the banks, for instance, for passing on the full 25 basis point rate cut just recently. I do want to thank the banks and other financial institutions. Again, I hesitate to praise the banks—it is not something I have done very often or have needed to do very often—but they are in business lending, in lots of different ways I think, doing the right thing by those who have got zero cash flow through no fault of their own. There are many others in the community that are reaching out and trying to play that constructive role. Beyond that, I can confirm for the member for Morwell that the Treasurer, myself and other senior ministers are looking at all the options that we might employ at the appropriate time, and we will make announcements to that end. We will stick with everyone impacted by coronavirus.
Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (12:34): Premier, the Traralgon Vineyard also informed me this morning of eight event cancellations due to COVID-19 concerns in the last few days, which has placed enormous strain on the viability of their business going forward. They are one of many businesses who are already experiencing a downturn in their operations. Part of the issue for many business owners is knowing how they are going to survive the looming economic disaster, and it is imperative that the business community is aware of any government information and assistance in this regard. Premier, will the government consider establishing a business hotline for those businesses impacted by COVID-19, so that they can relay the real issues they are experiencing and also receive accurate and up-to-date advice on how they can be supported through this crisis?
Mr ANDREWS (Mulgrave—Premier) (12:35): I thank the member for Morwell for his question, and I am certain that some arrangements have been put in place in terms of direct support and information for Victorian businesses. However, as I have often said, common sense is the best guide in these things. That is a very sensible idea. I am more than happy to, after question time, check that those arrangements have been put in place. If there is more that we can do to provide that
— Mr Pakula interjected.
Mr ANDREWS: The Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade informs me that that is well under development and it should be available tomorrow, so we are as one, I think, in the fact that common sense is the best way to provide support to people—clear and direct information. If there is anything further we can do, I am more than happy to have somebody in my office speak with the member for Morwell. I am happy to support him, all members and their constituents in any way in which they are impacted by such a significant and disruptive public health emergency. Public health is our number one priority, but there are many other impacts and we are here to provide support as best we can.