“Be compassionate, support local”: SA’s leaders discuss COVID impact and recovery

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What are the implications of COVID-19 on economic growth and business in South Australia? Have we seen the true impact of the coronavirus recession yet and how important is the role of the community in the economic recovery?

These are some of the topics discussed on Tuesday morning, at the business breakfast panel discussion hosted by St George College, as part of the school’s efforts to raise funds for the refurbishment of its Senior Campus.

The panel, comprised by SA Labor’s longest serving MP, Tom Koutsantonis, prominent developer Theo Maras and Director of Football at Adelaide United, Bruce Djite. Andrea Nicolas, a Senior Reporter with Channel 7, led the discussion.

The school’s Year 10 and Year 11 students who currently study Hospitality prepared and served the attendees with a scrumptious breakfast.

St George College’s Year 10 and Year 11 students who currently study hospitality, prepared and served breakfast to the attendees. Photo: The Greek Herald.

‘We pay, our children pay and there are no free rides’:

Bruce Djite, said that the sports industry has been hit hard and although the situation is slowly getting better, the future is unknown.

“We are still in survival mode. Tough decisions need to be made for the sustainability of the sport,” he said, expressing the opinion that although the Government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker payment schemes have been good, they are not sustainable in the long run.

Picking up on the government’s current approach to recovery, Theo Maras, elaborated on the reasons why a different model should be adopted.

“We have issues in the regions where we cannot get people to work because they can get more money without having to go to work.

South Australia’s leaders discussed the COVID impact and recovery during a business breakfast panel discussion hosted by St George College. Photo: The Greek Herald.

“Do, we really want a false economy? At the end of the day we pay, our children pay, and there’s no free rides. Let’s encourage people to go back to work. Let’s encourage Australians to be productive. Let’s encourage our world to do better than what we were doing before.”

Theo Maras, also expressed a view that the hospitality industry, which employs a large number of young people, would benefit greatly if the working lunch business meetings were made tax deductible and made exempt from Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT).

“My aim is to do everything we can to keep people usefully employed,” he said.

‘Mental health outcomes can worsen without support’:

Replying to Nicolas’ question on the impact of the pandemic on mental health, Greek Australian SA Labor politician Tom Koutsantonis, cautioned that abandonment of welfare support could add additional stressors to families and individuals.

“Mental health outcomes will be the great unknown and as time goes on, we will see more of the impact.

“Whether it’s business owners living with the stress of finding business because of the restrictions imposed by the government, whether is a family with a mortgage pushing the problem a little bit further out through deferral of payments or interest only plan, at the end we are going to have to pay,” Koutsantonis said.

“This is why I disagree with Theo and Bruce on JobSeeker. I think it can be modified to stop that disincentive from working, but we need to keep it.”

Mr Koutsantonis said that “false economy is already happening” and that family values and structure are equally important for the community’s wellbeing.

“This recession is not the fault of the public…if we are ever going to be compassionate and look after our neighbour is now.”

The thought provoking discussion was enjoyed by all and raised almost $3000 for the School’s Senior Campus refurbishment.

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