The Crazy Joker indoor play centre.
The Crazy Joker indoor play centre.

Popular business fears closure as JobKeeper expiry looms

THE owner of a Rockhampton indoor play centre said he does not know how long his business will survive when Federal Government assistance ceases next month.

The Crazy Joker owner Tom Newberry met this morning with Queensland Labor Senator Murray Watt and Keppel MP Brittany Lauga to oppose the sudden stopping of the JobKeeper wage subsidy on September 27.

Mr Newberry, who has five employees on JobKeeper payments, said his situation was "stressful".

"I really don't want to have to let them go," he said.

Mr Newberry said Rockhampton was at risk of losing the Bolsover Street play centre, which he has owned for seven years.

He called his business important for "social interaction" and for "young families being able to get out and about", and said the JobKeeper payments should go on as long as coronavirus restrictions cut into income.

Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga, Queensland Labor senator Murray Watt, and The Crazy Joker owner Tom Newberry.
Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga, Queensland Labor senator Murray Watt, and The Crazy Joker owner Tom Newberry.

Mr Watt said people "need to know now" how the Federal Government, along with its MPs, such as Queensland LNP senator Matt Canavan, planned to resolve business "uncertainty" as the JobKeeper expiry date approaches.

He thought that it was wrong to "pull the rug out" from those relying on the $1500 fortnightly payment and that it should at least be tapered off.

And he said the Federal Government should publicly release a Treasury review into the program, which "they've been sitting on since June".

Queensland LNP senator Matt Canavan agreed with the comments, but said Mr Watt was "trying to manufacture disagreement".

"I agree with him that JobKeeper should not be immediately stopped and have said so publicly," he said.

"Indeed, the Treasurer has also indicated that support will likely continue post-September."

Mr Canavan said support needed to be carefully designed to reduce taxpayer debt.

About the JobTrainer fund announced today, meant for healthcare, manufacturing, and trade education, Mr Watt said he was "generally supportive of anything to do with training", but it was "a shame we've had to wait as long as we have".

Mr Watt also said the JobSeeker unemployment benefit should be permanently increased, it being "not realistic or fair" at the moment, and that the pre-coronavirus amount in fact "condemns people to poverty".



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