SYDNEY, AAP – Small and medium-sized businesses have been given the green light to restock for Christmas as NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet expresses hope the state economy will grow again in the December quarter.
And while the Labor opposition supported the package, it expressed concern toll relief measures would prove insufficient.
It comes as NSW records 360 new local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, as well as five deaths. Three of the five were unvaccinated.
A day after the state began to emerge from a near four-month lockdown, Mr Perrottet and Treasurer Matt Kean on Tuesday announced a package to support business.
Shops, gyms, cafes and hair salons were on Monday overrun as fully-vaccinated patrons responded to weeks of pent-up demand.
While authorities and business owners were nervous about potential conflict because unvaccinated people are currently denied entry and in-venue service, most in NSW were on their best behaviour.
“Last year, as we came through the pandemic, business confidence was key – was crucial – to driving economic growth, to ensuring that businesses continued to employ and bring people on,” Mr Perrottet said.
“As we head into the summer months and Christmas trade … businesses can go out and invest.”
Eligible businesses with an annual turnover between $75,000 and $50 million will be able to apply for a grant of up to $20,000 to compensate for loss of perishable stock if they are impacted by a “last resort” lockdown. They would also be able to claim $10,000 for reduced capacity to sell non-perishable items.
The package includes toll road relief for businesses with an annual wages cost below $1.2 million which don’t qualify for payroll tax.
Those businesses will be able to claim road tolls under the small business fees and charges rebate, increased to $2000.
Mr Perrottet said this measure would support tradies, but Opposition Leader Chris Minns said more relief was required.
“Under this government, tolls are forever, whereas this relief package runs out in June … it’s not much and it doesn’t last very long,” Mr Minns said.
With NSW already on the verge of another critical COVID-19 vaccination milestone, crowds could soon be back in stadiums and nightclubs.
More than 80 per cent of the population is predicted to be fully vaccinated around next Monday, triggering freedoms on October 25. If this occurs faster than anticipated, freedoms could be triggered on October 18.
As of Monday, some 75 per cent of eligible residents are double jabbed.
Unlike his predecessor, Mr Perrottet on Monday said he had no concerns labelling Monday a “Freedom Day” for the state, but reiterated caution.
He said he would in the coming weeks announce additional economic stimulus, including measures to rejuvenate the Sydney CBD and coax fully vaccinated workers back into the office sooner.
“We can’t have dormant cities,” Mr Perrottet said.
Mr Perrottet added that the easing of restrictions on Monday would likely help NSW avoid a second consecutive quarter of economic contraction, following the locked-down September quarter.
However the restrictions that remain in place, such as density and gathering limits, are still costing the state economy about $500 million per week, the premier said.
Peak business body Business NSW said the small business support package was welcome and would help engender confidence.
“Businesses can now plan and order the stock they think they’ll need while their business begins to scale up again, with the knowledge the government has a level of protection in place for them,” Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter said.