Senate Speech - Promoting Qld Small Business

I appreciate this opportunity to reflect on the impact of the coronavirus on Australians and Queenslanders so far. It's been hard for people facing work shutdowns.

It has been hard for business owners who are not sure if they are going to make it through. It's been hard for families as they were thrown into the deep end of home schooling, often trying to work from home at the same time. It's been hard for the elderly and the sick, who face the knowledge that this virus is most dangerous to them, and they faced additional isolation as a result. But through all of that hardship, every step of the way, the Morrison government has been there with an unprecedented subsidy of the $130 billion JobKeeper payment to keep Australians in work and connected to their workplaces so that they can have that continuity and so those businesses can bounce back as quickly as possible; with expanded assistance for those who have lost jobs through the jobseeker payment as well as allowances relating to rent, phones and other expenses; with the expansion of the instant asset write-off, the business cash flow boost and the jobs hub to help businesses navigate these difficult times; and with the COVID supplement to help welfare recipients to stimulate the economy. I could keep going, but I think those in the chamber get the idea.

It's a lot of spending. I'm not ashamed to say that that level of spending pushes my boundaries but it should because it's not my money or the government's money; it's your money, the Australian public's money, the taxpayers' money and it's our children's money. I'm reassured by the knowledge that these are temporary measures to get us through this difficult time and I am reassured by the knowledge that these measures are working. I hear it from individuals and businesses all over Queensland.

Ryan Shaw, the LNP's candidate for Nudgee, recently met with the owner of VEND Marketplace in Virginia, who said that the JobKeeper payment has helped maintain his tenants because the businesses who lease shops in that centre are able to keep opening with the benefit of the JobKeeper boost. My office has heard from Ryan Dickens» from «Dickens Training and Assessment Services. He provides vocational training in the construction and earthmoving industries. It is a wonderful Queensland business that provides training across Queensland and even into New South Wales. Not only have they benefited from JobKeeper payments to keep their staff on but they've particularly benefited from the cash flow boost implemented by the Morrison government and this has allowed them to adjust their workplace to continue to deliver training in a COVID-safe economy.

I was really pleased to hear from my friend and colleague Angie Bell, the member for Moncrieff, that the JobKeeper program made it possible for the Southport Yacht Club to stay in business. It is a community club which has been operational since 1949.

Surfers Paradise MP John-Paul Langbroek told me that his electorate in the small business capital of Queensland—which statistically it is—was hurting given the downturn in tourism that has come about due to the closing of borders and the requirement for Australians to stay home. Thousands of restaurants, cafes and shops normally thrive in that bustling little community. But many have been brought to their knees by COVID-19. Thanks to the JobKeeper program, many of them have been able to keep their doors open, and I will give just a couple of examples. The Edgewater Restaurant, run by John and Tracey Cianci, is open again for business on Saturday, with staff being supported by the Morrison government's JobKeeper program. The Moana Restaurant, on the Isle of Capri, has been able to retain long-term staff by pivoting so that they can provide takeaways, and they'll open for dinners from this weekend. Lincoln Testa, from Madison's Cafe in Broadbeach, said: 'Thank God for JobKeeper! We wouldn't be here without it.'

Based in Townsville, Ashley Evans, who owns AAA+ Financial Solutions and AAA Consulting, says that his business has survived because of the JobKeeper payment. Importantly, though, he says that he's been receiving really positive feedback from clients across northern and western Queensland to say that JobKeeper has been vital for them. Ashley's been helping his clients to navigate all the changes taking place in the assistance that's available from government and the changes in our economy that have come as we adapt to the COVID environment. He's also been working closely with banks to help organise complementary finance to ensure that businesses are able to keep making payroll while they have waited for early JobKeeper payments to arrive. Ashley says passionately that JobKeeper is exactly the lifeline that small businesses across regional Queensland have desperately needed.

I've also heard from Nick Braban, a bar owner, that, due to the JobKeeper and cashflow boost payments, he's been able to pivot his businesses, given that they weren't able to be open in the usual way, so that he has been able to keep the doors open at his Isles Lane and Beirne Lane venues in Fortitude Valley.

I could keep listing great examples like those, but I'm also struck by the ingenuity of Australian businesses that have been able to dramatically adapt their operations to these times. Nowhere is that clearer than in the way that Queensland manufacturers have pivoted to producing personal protective equipment, or PPE, and medical equipment to sustain the needs of our population and our health system during this time. Gold Coast company Triple Eight Race Engineering is now manufacturing an emergency invasive ventilator that's suitable for a range of situations, including where there are suboptimal conditions, such as not being in a hospital. The ventilator has been designed by Triple Eight to meet the technical specifications that the regulators require. It's a self-contained unit that doesn't require a medical-grade air supply unit to function. It's really very clever—and a great way that they've adapted to the challenges of this time. It means that we will be able to deliver great health services even outside the hospitals of our capitals.

Brisbane company OzVader began with its project founder Tony Sprague messaging a mate out of frustration at the climbing COVID-19 statistics around the globe and going, 'What if we could have done something here?' So, since then, Tony and a team of engineers and medics have designed and built a production-ready, safe and functional medical ventilator. It's a life-saving response to a global ventilator shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The OzVader V1 is undergoing functional testing at the medical engineering research facility at Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane. What an accomplishment in a short period of time!

Brisbane company 3D One are supplying world-first 3D printed patient customised medical devices for protecting healthy tissue in cancer treatment, and they're doing that with distribution throughout Australia and New Zealand at a rate of more than 60 per week currently. They have a fleet of 20 really quite serious 3D printers but, due to strong local and now international demand, they've needed to greatly increase their manufacturing capacity. Who would have thought there'd be stories of great growth amidst all of this hardship? By their pivot, they've now been able to develop their own large-format 3D printers, custom designed for printing these world-first radiation treatments. Now, after a series of prototypes and rigorous testing, they've entered large-scale production. They switched their 3D printers during this time so that not only are they producing assistance for those who are going through radiation and other cancer treatments but they're now printing PPE. They've crowdsourced more 3D printed parts from all over Australia, and that's how they are rather ingeniously keeping up with PPE demand from Australian hospitals.

I have great faith in Australian businesses and their tenacity to get through this difficulty, I have great faith in the resilience of Australia's working people and the fighting spirit of Queenslanders as they get through this difficult time, and I have enormous belief in the way that they have gathered together as a community and acknowledged the need to support each other as we get through this difficult time together. I'll conclude by saying to each and every one of those Queenslanders: the Morrison government is here with you every step of the way through this challenging time.