Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Bookshops, publishers eligible for wage subsidy scheme

Bookshop and publishing house staff are among the workers who could be eligible for the federal government’s $130 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

Under the scheme, the Australian Tax Office will pay affected businesses $1500 a fortnight to subsidise the wage of each worker employed at 1 March 2020. Businesses will be required to pay at least that amount to workers. The $1500 fortnightly payment will be available for full- and part-time workers, as well as sole traders and casuals who have been with an employer for 12 months or more.

Affected businesses are those that have suffered a drop in turnover of at least 30%, or 50% for employers with over $1 billion in turnover. The subsidy begins on 30 March with the first payments to be received by employers in the first week of May.

‘This is absolutely necessary. It could not have come soon enough,’ said Australian Booksellers Association CEO Robbie Egan in response to the scheme. ‘My only concern is it may be lacking in universality; it would be excellent to not exclude anyone, including casuals who have worked for a company for less than 12 months.

‘That said, it’s a huge step in the right direction. Small businesses such as bookshops are the lifeblood of the economy, and its no secret that bookshops are incredibly labour-intensive: they employ a lot of people to do the physical work of getting books onto shelves and into customers hands and, proportionately, bookshops going under would destroy a lot of good jobs. So the longevity of the scheme is to be applauded.’

Egan added: ‘Bookshops are the consumer-facing end of the whole publishing industry and any losses there would be damaging to the entire ecosystem as we’re all in it together.’

Australian Publishers Association CEO Michael Gordon-Smith said: ‘Everything the government can do, especially for smaller businesses, is welcome.

‘Publishers have not been affected with the same kind of complete stop to activity and revenue that has hit sectors such as performing arts or tourism, but many publishers operate on a precipice with narrow margins and limited reserves. It’s going to be critical to our recovery to keep publishing infrastructure and cultural institutions intact. This crisis will cast a long shadow—it will be longer and darker on Australia’s cultural life if publishers fold. It’s necessary to keep books as essential items during this time.

‘The government’s announcements should make it a little easier for companies to keep people employed, but support needs to be delivered fast, and it may not be enough.’


Category: Local news