Get ready to ramp up development

THE COVID-19 threat will be one of the defining moments of a generation, and we need to all pull together in such challenging times. Australia has faced significant economic challenges before and it has always been the strength and resilience of our people that has helped us through. We will get through this and we will rebuild, but it is going to take time, effort, and leadership.

The Property Council of Australia stands prepared and willing to work with local, state and federal governments to ensure that our industry plays its part in supporting jobs, construction, and investment throughout this period and into the recovery which will follow.

Commercial landlords should want their tenants to survive and to be in place for the recovery. And while the economic crisis is only in its early days in Australia, building owners are already working with their tenants to support their businesses on a case-by-case basis with short and longer-term solutions.

This may include deferral or abatement of rent, reductions in outgoings, changes in rental frequency and payment plans, and extended grace periods regarding defaults.

The financial support that commercial building owners are likely to provide over the coming months will be very substantial, amounting to many millions of dollars across the economy.

We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that state and territory governments will work on model laws for commercial and residential tenancies experiencing hardship, and we stand ready to work cooperatively on their implementation. We also welcome clarity about land tax in the big picture but have little to no idea what local government are going to contribute when it comes to rates relief.

Local governments need to consider immediate rates relief for all businesses, including a 100 per cent 12-month rates hiatus for those facing significant hardship, and maintenance of rates at current Average Assessed Value (AAV), not adjusted to increased AAVs that are out of kilter with current property values on the back of the crisis.

The City of Launceston’s rates remission for six months shows excellent leadership. All municipalities should follow suit without delay.

Businesses cannot afford to wait for local government, they need decisions and clarity now and it is time for the sector to show leadership and do what the upper tiers of government have done and provide support to ensure that the economy can recover after this crisis recedes.

State and local government must also continue legislative reforms aimed at reducing regulatory handbrakes. Significant progress towards the implementation of a streamlined statewide Tasmanian Planning Scheme and statutory decision-making frameworks must remain a priority, with the importance of simplified processes key to supporting recovery following this challenging period.

This is the perfect time to reduce red-tape, which continues to slow down the building and construction industry’s goal of reaching maximum capacity.

Further, the State Government granted itself a range of sweeping new powers and we need to ensure there is proper scrutiny of the decisions it takes in coming months.

Despite the best of intentions, no government gets it right all the time and that’s why Parliament’s checks and balances are vital. There is also an opportunity to bring forward infrastructure projects that benefit the state in employment, project readiness and economic recovery.

TasWater, TasNetworks and other government businesses must be urged to begin capital improvement projects straight away with the obvious benefits then available as soon as they are completed and into the future as recovery gathers pace. The Property Council of Australia looks forward to welcoming additional stimulus packages that support our members as they continue to sustain small businesses across Australia. Keeping the economy functioning and implementing measures that preserve jobs must remain key priorities.

COVID-19 has created a level of anxiety in the community that has and continues to undermine confidence. We understand that the pandemic presents a troubling and uncertain future, but our industry remains confident that the resilience and maturity we have developed will assist us through this difficult time.

Brave, swift and decisive steps must be taken. The Property Council of Australia is supportive of clear and concise messaging that maintains a level of confidence across the nation. Further, we reiterate the importance of bringing forward and continuing large-scale infrastructure projects, delivering tax concessions, and following through on legislative reform.