COVID 19 Business Alerts - Updated 27 March 2020
Thu 26 Mar 2020
Friday 27 March 2020 - 5:36pm
COVID-19 STAGE TWO STIMULUS PACKAGE HAS BEEN RELEASED BY NSW GOVERNMENT
The Treasurer released the second NSW Government stimulus package today.
- the creation of a $1 billion Working for NSW fund to sustain business, create new jobs and retain employees.
- deferral of payroll tax for businesses with payrolls over $10 million for six months. Businesses with payrolls of $10 million or less received a three-month waiver on payroll tax in the first package.
- deferral of gaming tax for clubs, pubs and hotels, and lotteries tax for six months.
- deferral of the parking space levy for six months.
- deferral of rents for six months for commercial tenants with less than 20 employees in Government owned
LATEST UPDATED FROM NATIONAL CABINET
The Prime Minister today announced:
- all travellers arriving in Australia will be required to undertake their mandatory 14 day self-isolation at designated facilities (for example, a hotel).
- The Australian Defence Force will begin assisting state and territory governments to undertake quarantine compliance checks
NSW INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS CONTINUE AT THIS STAGE
Further advice has been received from the NSW Government over the past two days on the continued operation of NSW Government infrastructure projects.
Simon Draper, CEO of Infrastructure NSW has underlined the importance of supporting the NSW economy and continuing to pursue and deliver the NSW infrastructure program with as little disruption as practicable. This must be done at the same that we must control the infection rate of the virus.
He has outlined some key principles that will guide the NSW Government’s approach for projects and businesses affected by the virus or related control measures:
- Contractors are encouraged to talk to their NSW Government agency clients as soon as possible to allow a cooperative approach to mitigation. Conversely, agencies should reach out to contractors.
- Each project will be managed on a case by case basis to address the particular circumstances, and each will require information the causes behind potential delays, and solutions tailored to the circumstances.
- Government clients will work cooperatively with contractors to seek solutions that maximise the chance of achieving good project outcomes for client, contractor, subcontractors, employees and suppliers.
- For projects in delivery, Government clients recognise that COVID-19 may introduce delivery risks that could not have been foreseen, mitigated or priced at the time contracts were executed (noting the commercial arrangements vary).
- For projects not yet contracted, Government clients will consider industry feedback and an approach that recognises the risks created by COVID-19 over the upcoming period.
- As a matter of reciprocity, contractors will be expected to:
- seek Government flexibility and cooperation only for matters related to COVID-19, and not for pre-existing project performance issues or unrelated delays
- propose changes only to the extent required to mitigate the effects of COVID-19
- mitigate delays and costs, demonstrate flexibility in doing so, and promptly provide information on anticipated delays and strategies
- protect and utilise insurance arrangements that can mitigate impacts
- act cooperatively with other contractors on the project
- treat subcontractors, consultants and suppliers in a similar manner, and reflect changes in arrangements in those contracts.
7. Discussions and problem solving should occur between client agencies (project teams) and contractor project teams , with escalation according to usual mechanisms.
Friday 27 March 2020 - 04:52pm
'BUSINESS HIBERNATION PLAN PROPOSED'
- Government to develop a ‘business hibernation’ package
- Package will include tenancy arrangements – “everyone will take some pain”
- Compulsory quarantine arrangements for returning international travellers
The Prime Minister hasforeshadowed the announcement of a ‘ business hibernation’ package in the thirdtranche of the Federal Government’s economic response to the coronavirus crisisin coming days.
Following the latest National Cabinet meeting today, the PM emphasised theimportance of helping all businesses make it through the crisis so they couldbe part of the recovery.
A critical part of this objective would be enabling businesses that have beenforced to close due to the economic crisis to be protected and supportedthrough the public health response period.
The PM said it would be an innovative approach to maintain as much of theeconomy as possible.
While the detail is still to be resolved, the PM foreshadowed a package to dealwith commercial and residential tenancies but noted this would require acontribution from landlords, business and governments. Land tax relief wasmentioned so is clearly on the agenda for governments to address.
It is expected the package will be announced in the next few days followingfurther consultation with state and territory governments.
Our teams are engaging immediately with federal, state and territorygovernments to better understand the scope of this proposal and its detailwhich is still under discussion.
Our objective remains that a broad base of tenants are able to benefit from the‘business hibernation’ plan and that commercial property owners are providedwith land tax relief which can be passed through to their tenants. We are alsoadvocating in support of keeping construction going during this period givenits economic significance and the importance of minimising disruption tocurrent and planned projects.
We also support the PrimeMinister’s statement on the importance of all parties, including landlords andtenants, working cooperatively to achieve our shared interest in ensuringbusinesses are in place and positioned to recover in future.
Stepped-up quarantine forreturning travellers
The Commonwealth, state and territory governments are imposing more stringentcompulsory quarantine measures for travellers returning from overseas.
This will include the use of special quarantine hotels or facilities tomaintain closer supervision over returned travellers to ensure they isolate for14 days.
The Australian Defence Force will provide support to state and territory lawenforcement agencies in ensuring that returned travellers are abiding by theirself-isolation commitments.
The stricterquarantining measure reflects that the majority of COVID-19 cases in Australiato date have been linked to overseas travellers or those in contact with them.
Thursday 26 March 2020 - 10:59am
NEW MINISTERIAL ORDERS FIRST ACTION UNDER COVID-19 LAWS
Yesterday, the Covid-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 commenced.
- 24-hour trading allowed for retail businesses
- Greater flexibility introduced for home businesses
This included amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to allow the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces to make Ministerial orders to override the Act and any other planning instruments to approve development or make broad changes to existing consents.
The Minister can do this as long as he is reasonably satisfied the order will protect the health, safety and welfare of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The last of these is obviously the most broad.
Under the first Order of this Act introduced yesterday – with immediate effect:
- retail premises (except those that sell liquor) will have the flexibility to operate any time (24 hours a day) as they see fit,
- waste disposal will be able to be conducted at any time.
This will provide the community more flexible access to supermarkets, pharmacies and corner-stores and the essential goods they sell at varied times of day. It will also provide business the flexibility to service the community as required.
The second order provides greater flexibility for those operating home-based businesses.
Certain start-ups and home-based businesses will grow during this period and this order ensures the planning rules are flexible enough to allow this. Under this order:
- greater flexibility will be provided for home-based businesses by allowing them to work extended hours to any time despite their existing consent,
- it will also increase the number of people that can work at a home-based business from two to five, providing these businesses can abide by the Public Health Order and social distancing rules.
Through close consultation with the Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment and the wider NSW Government, the Property Council will continue to put forward practical, sensible solutions to support both our industry and the community during this time.
Wednesday 25 March 2020 - 06:28pm
- The Property Council today attended the first Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) COVID-19 round table with other industry bodies
- The current work of the Department in responding to the health emergency was discussed
- Future work to support the NSW economy was also canvassed
The Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment today held a meeting with industry peak bodies to discuss the current measures required to ensure business continuity for some sectors providing essential services.
A future work program around the stimulus measures required to support the NSW economy was also discussed.
DPIE is working on two fronts:
- the public health response, and
- in relation to the role the planning system contributes to facilitating economic activity.
An overview was provided of the Government response to Covid-19 including a summary of the legislative changes which have been temporarily adopted in Parliament, including the Emergency Measures Bill.
The Bill, to commence today, incorporates the following:
- It allows the Planning Minister to make orders to enable certain developments to take place after consultation with the Minister for Health
- Removes requirements to have a place provided and a physical copy of relevant documents on public exhibition for inspection so long as exhibition copies are made available electronically
The meeting also covered the new SEPP released last Friday to support important supply chains. State Environmental Planning Policy Amendment (COVID-19 Response) 2020 makes clear that truck deliveries are able to supply shops and retailers with essential goods at all times to support communities.
A number of other suggestions were discussed including:
- DPIE working closely at all levels with Councils to emphasise the economic importance of progressing development applications and proposals.
- Exploring changes to operating/construction hours because sites have adopted distancing guidelines for employees which may affect the number on any given worksite.
- Examining ways to fast track / make procurement more simplified and timely
Further input will be needed from industry on key stimulus measures and the Department will work closely with industry to design and implement these measures.
Wednesday 25 March 2020 - 02:06pm
- Amendments provide new powers to The NSW Government to make regulations relating to retail and residential tenancies. Full extent is still to be determined
- The Bill has now passed and is awaiting assent
- The Amendments allow regulations to be made under relevant Acts at a future time
Last night in the NSW Legislative Council, amendments were brought forward by the Greens party to the Emergency Measures Legislation that passed through the Legislative Assembly earlier in the day.
The amendments grant the NSW Government the power to make regulations under the relevant pieces of legislation (relating to both residential and retail tenancies in NSW) to:
- prohibit the repossession of a premises,
- termination of a lease or the exercise of another right that the landlord of the land has under a lease, and
- where such regulations are needed to protect the health, safety and welfare of the tenants under the relevant Act.
The amendments also provide the opportunity to make regulations to grant tenants exemptions from complying with the operation of a provision of an Act or agreement relating to the lease or licence of land.
The regulation making power for residential tenancies covers the following pieces of legislation:
(a) Boarding Houses Act 2012,
(b) Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013,
(c) Residential Tenancies Act 2010,
(d) any other Act relating to the leasing of premises or land for residential purposes.
For retail, the regulation making power covers:
(a) Agricultural Tenancies Act 1990,
(b) Retail Leases Act 1994,
(c) any other Act relating to the leasing of premises or land for commercial purposes.
The Minister can only make new regulations if:
- the NSW Parliament is not currently sitting and is not likely to sit within 2 weeks after the day the regulations are made, and
- in the Minister's opinion, the regulations are reasonable to protect the health, safety and welfare of lessees or tenants under the Act.
In addition, regulations made pursuant to these changes will not be limited by the regulation-making power in a relevant Act.
Any regulations made will expire 6 months after the day on which the regulation commences.
What this means and what happens next
The Property Council is currently seeking advice on what commercial, retirement or land lease leases may be impacted should the NSW Government make regulations using these new powers.
It is clear, from the lists above, that there may be new regulations for ‘standard’ residential and retail leases and leases under the other nominated Acts. We will endeavour to discover any more ‘hidden’ impacts or leases.
The National Cabinet is meeting tonight to consider leases following work being undertaken by Western Australia and New South Wales.
It is expected the Cabinet will make decisions that will flow through and end up in new regulations in NSW.
The powers are very broad and could have a dramatic operation of residential and retail leases in NSW.
Tuesday 24 March 2020 - 10:33pm
NEW RESTRICTIONS ON SOCIAL GATHERINGS
- Further restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings
- ‘Stay at home’ unless necessary
- Tenancy and lease issues to be considered Wednesday night
Further restrictions on indoor and outdoor social gatherings have been announced tonight following the latest meeting of the National Cabinet.
A decision on measures related to tenancy and lease issues has been deferred until the next meeting of the National Cabinet on Wednesday evening.
Noting that NSW and Victoria were more advanced than other states and territories in terms of the number of coronavirus cases, the Prime Minister reaffirmed that states and territories remained committed to ensuring consistency in the application of the social gathering rules.
Further to restrictions already announced (including those related to cafes, restaurants and hotels etc), a range of indoor and outdoor activities have been proscribed. State and territory governments will take necessary action to enforce these requirements.
Of note, the new restrictions now include food courts in shopping centres although take-away purchases are still allowed.
The PM emphasised shopping centres would remain open subject to observing the social distancing requirements (1 person every 4 square metres).
Real estate auctions and open house inspections are to be stopped, while various personal services activities delivered in premises should also cease (such tanning, waxing and nail salons). Health-related services may continue.
Outdoor gatherings are to be avoided, with strict limits on attendances at weddings (5 persons) and funerals (10 persons). The PM also cautioned against large family gatherings at home.
Schools will remain open under the current arrangements.
There is a total ban on overseas travel other than for limited essential reasons.
Tuesday 24 March 2020 - 02:57pm
LEGISLATION INTRODUCED TO NSW PARLIAMENT
The NSW Parliament has started debating legislation to put in place emergency measures for the COVID-19 crisis.
- Two pieces of legislation have been introduced to NSW Parliament today
- The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 has been introduced by Andrew Constance, Minister for Transport
- The Treasury Legislation Amendment (COVID-19) Bill 2020 has also been introduced by the Treasurer
There will be two separate bills introduced, one to deal with emergency measures and one to deal with budget measures.
The “emergency measures” bill has passed the Legislative Assembly. Key matters include:
- Amendments to the Environmental and Planning Act to enable the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces to make an order that authorises development to be carried out without the need for approval under the Act or consent from any person
- The Minister must be satisfied that the making of the order is necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of members of the public
- Ensure that documents do not need to be made available at a physical location if it is available on the NSW Planning portal
- These provisions apply for a minimum of 6 months, extendable up to 12 months
- Enable the deferment of council elections if the Local Government Minister believes it is reasonable to do so. The delay is for a maximum of 12 months
- Allows “virtual” council meetings via audio visual link or other approved manner
Other than matters relating to planning and land use, it deals with:
- Changes required in the criminal justice system in relation to criminal trials, juries, pre-trial procedures, apprehended violence orders, bail and sentencing
- Extends working with children checks that would otherwise expire
- Prohibit visitors to detention centres or correctional centres if need be to protect the health of detainees and inmates
- To grant parole to additional classes of inmates if reasonably necessary
- A range of changes in relation to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal
- Ensure laws can be made even if they are not presented to the Governor in person
- To convert interim apprehended violence orders into final apprehended violence orders
- To make alternative arrangements for signing and witnessing documents
- Changes to provisions relating to the storage and distribution of vaccines and medicines and other changes to the regulation of private health facilities
- Modifications to Mental Health Review Tribunal procedures
- Creates a specific power of arrest is there are reasonable grounds that a police officer believes a person is contravening a public health order
- Allows supermarkets to trade on days where it is otherwise prohibited (such as Anzac Day)
- Extends the operation of Regulations that would otherwise expire
- Makes changes in relation to the payment of workers compensation
The “budget measures” bill has also passed the Legislative Assembly. It includes:
- A freeing up of long service leave provisions allowing it to be accessed before it would otherwise become available
- Changes to payroll tax including a temporary reduction for businesses with annual wages of $10 million or less
Both bills will now move to the Legislative Council.
Monday 23 March 2020 - 03:37pm
MESSAGE FROM THE NSW TREASURER
- NSW Treasurer has advised the Property Council about continuity of construction projects
- NSW Government determined to deliver the NSW infrastructure pipeline and has confidence in the health and safety culture in the industry
- Infrastructure NSW says continuity on projects will be best served by codifying and upholding rigorous practices for on-site for distancing, hygiene, safe travel and early identification of any potential infection
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet MP has today written to the Property Council to assure that the government will work with the property industry to sustain our state and nation during this difficult time. Treasurer Perrottet notes that the industry’s continued contribution will be vital as we rise to meet the challenges ahead. A copy of the Treasurer’s letter is here.
The Chief Executive of Infrastructure NSW, Simon Draper, has also advised that Infrastructure NSW and Government agencies charged with delivering the infrastructure program have been in discussions about how we work cooperatively with the property and construction industries to maintain cash flow, employment and delivery on our projects.
Infrastructure NSW are taking a proactive approach to engagement. They are organising calls with industry leaders during this week to discuss their general approach. They have further advised that any contractor experiencing difficulties on a project should pick up the phone to their client agency as soon as possible. The Property Council will take part in those discussions.
The NSW Government today announced closure of places where people gather, such as pubs, restaurants, gyms and cinemas. Today’s advice therefore does not impact construction projects. Clearly, Governments will make decisions based on the latest health advice, and we should expect that there will be updates and new measures over coming days and weeks. If further steps are considered necessary, Infrastructure NSW has advised they will update us on what that means for infrastructure projects and the construction industry.
Infrastructure NSW has advised they want work to continue as much as possible without disruption, consistent with the health advice. The agency suggests that continuity on projects will be best served by every contractor and project team codifying and upholding rigorous practices for on-site for distancing, hygiene, safe travel and early identification of any potential infection.
Monday 23 March 2020 - 11:59am
NEW RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE IN NSW
Following a meeting of the National Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s press conference last night, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced the restriction on some facilities from midday today. These facilities are:
- Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
- Gyms and indoor sporting venues
- Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
- Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
- Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies).
Schools in NSW will stay open until the end of this school term, However the Premier has said this morning that those parents who are in a position to keep their children at home, should do so.
The 2020-21 NSW Budget will be deferred from June until later in the year. This aligns with the approach of other States and Territories, following a recommendation by the National Cabinet of Commonwealth, State and Territory leaders on Friday.
NSW Opposition’s Position
The NSW Opposition has announced its support for the deferral of the budget and a cooperative approach around expediting legislation, stimulus and associated measures.
Our work with the NSW Government
We have been working closely with the NSW Government to support the community and our industry during this crisis.
Key initiatives – have been put forward to both the Minister for Planning and Public Places and the Treasurer. These measures cover both short-term steps to stimulate the economy and provide support now, and medium-term measures to ensure construction and investment continues in NSW. We have also pressed that key reforms to both the planning system and infrastructure contributions system that have been developed should be announced and implemented as soon as is reasonably possible.
A part of the short-term stimulus measures has been putting forward key, shovel ready, construction projects that can begin in the short term and require Government facilitation or coordination.
Essential worker – preliminary advice has been provided to relevant senior NSW Government representatives. This advice has been drawn from our members and fit into two categories; those workers who would provide essential services to the community during a shutdown and those workers that would limit the damage to the economy and support the economic wellbeing of households across the State.
Commercial tenancies – The WA and NSW governments are leading the work on the development of model rules. We are engaging with the NSW Government to provide advice on this matter.
State Government department engagement – has been undertaken to provide any assistance required, feedback on the impact on industry and assist in the response.
Local government engagement – has been undertaken to ensure any challenges local government may be facing in the near term can be addressed to ensure business continuity. This includes the assessment of development projects needed for continued investment and local jobs.
Sunday 22 March 2020 - 10:23pm
NEW RESTRICTIONS ON SOCIAL GATHERING PLACES
- New measures to restrict indoor social gathering from midday Monday 23 March 2020
- Schools remain open, Victoria and ACT early holidays
- Tenancy legislation to be considered by National Cabinet on Tuesday 24 March 2020
Following a meeting of the National Cabinet this evening, new measures have been put in ‘principal places of social gathering’ from midday on Monday to apply across all states and territories.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all state and territory leaders had agreed to the ‘Stage 1’ measures which were necessary due to the widespread failure to observe earlier guidance on social distancing. The PM said ‘stage 2’ measures were yet to be scoped. We will monitor the development of these closely.
Social gathering places to be affected by the new restrictions from tomorrow include:
- Registered and licensed clubs
- Hotels and pubs licensed areas (not accommodation)
- Entertainment venues, casinos, nightclubs
- Restaurants and cafes (to provide take away or home delivery only)
- Gyms and indoor sporting venues
- Places of worship
The Prime Minister emphasised that all other businesses, including shopping centres, could continue to operate as normal but within the established social distancing guidelines (one person per 4 square metres).
The measures will be reviewed monthly and people should expect these to be in force for six months or more. They follow advice earlier today to avoid non-essential domestic travel, and restrictions on cross-border travel announced by various states and territories.
The Prime Minister also foreshadowed other measures may be introduced if required on the basis of health advice to control the spread of coronavirus.
Schools are to remain open for the remainder of term one, although parents can elect whether to keep their children in school. Schools will look at offering distance education programs and the expectation is, subject to health advice, they will re-open next term.
The PM noted that the next meeting of the National Cabinet on Tuesday night would consider legislation on tenancies.
Sunday 22 March 2020 - 01:57pm
NEW CORONAVIRUS ECONOMIC RESPONSE - LOCKDOWN DECISIONS IMMINENT
- $66 billion of new stimulus measures to help individuals and business
- ‘Bridge to recovery’ foreshadows six months or more of disruption
- National Cabinet to agree to lock-down measures tonight
- Advice to avoid non-essential travel within Australia
The Federal Government has announced an historic and sweeping package of measures to support individuals, households and businesses as the impact of the coronavirus outbreak reverberates across the Australian economy.
With $66 billion of new individual and business support measures announced today, the coronavirus response now amounts to $189 billion, or 9.7 per cent of GDP, to date. This is more than double the size of packages announced in other countries in GDP terms. More measures may be announced in future.
In addition to advising against non-essential travel within Australia, the Prime Minister has also foreshadowed new restrictions to enforce social distancing.
A meeting of the National Cabinet has been brought forward to Sunday night to discuss the framework for more focused lockdowns of localities and regions, potentially starting in NSW which has recorded the highest rate of COVID-19 cases to date.
Media are reporting that the NSW and Victorian Governments intend to make announcements tomorrow. There is also growing pressure from some states for a wider shutdown of non-essential activities, including schools.
The economic response covers three areas:
- support for individuals and households;
- support for business; and,
- supporting the flow of credit
Further detail on all of the measures announced to date are available in this briefing note from Treasury.
For small to medium sized businesses, there is additional support to boost cash flow (up to $100,000) and a new loan guarantee arrangement between the Government and participating banks to cover the immediate cash flow needs of SMEs.
It is noteworthy that the Government will allow early access to superannuation accounts for people experiencing hardship related to the coronavirus outbreak with tax-free withdrawals of up to $10,000 in this and next financial year.
The Government is also temporarily adjusting the regulatory framework for insolvency by temporarily providing higher thresholds (to $20,000) and more time (up to six months) to respond to demands from creditors and providing temporary relief from directors’ personal insolvent trading liability.
We will be looking closely at these and the other measures to better understand their implications for our members and industry.