The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) has called for a focus on policy adaptation on national disasters to protect small business owners throughout the next decade.
“The next decade must be about policy adaptation on key national issues,” said Peter Strong, CEO of COSBOA, following the devastating impact of the bushfires and drought on small businesses since the end of 2019.
Small business owners in rural and regional Australia experienced prolonged drought that heavily reduced sales, local economic output and household incomes.
Businesses affected by bushfires along the NSW South Coast, reported revenue falls of up to 60 per cent over the Christmas and New Year period compared with the same time last year.
Westpac has further estimated that the bushfire crisis will cost Australia $5 billion in direct losses and cut 0.2 to 0.5 per cent from its economic growth.
The small business sector has called on the Morrison government to push ahead with a plan to reduce the risks from disasters such as bushfires.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework was published in 2018, following a summit of more than 100 participants that included representatives from all levels of government, business and the community sector.
It was developed on the basis that natural hazards are more frequent and intense with long term, complex impacts that leave people and assets vulnerable.
The framework estimates an annual economic cost from disasters of at least $39 billion by 2050, a figure that does not include the effects of a changing climate.
But 18 months on from the initial framework, an implementation plan has not been published.
“We have a plan to adapt to climate change – let’s use it,” chief executive of COSBOA, Peter Strong said.
The Framework is under a review period from 2019 to 2023, with a 2030 goal for implementation.
“We need the National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework implemented now,” he said.
COSBOA is currently working with the Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, on immediate and long-term responses to the crisis.
They call for a better eligibility criterion for assistance to those affected by national disasters, a centralised information service that those affected can consult and greater financial support.
They have further called for continual assistance to those affected post-disaster and a dedicated small business disaster support service.
You can read more about how the bushfires have affected businesses here.