Official data confirms the concerns of a local prosperity ‘think-tank’ that the nature of the Mornington Peninsula economy makes the area more ‘at risk’ for COVID-caused job losses and business closures and that decisive action is needed to reduce the impact on local livelihoods.
Committee for Mornington Peninsula (CfMP) President, Bruce Billson, has seized on the latest ABS regional jobs data that showed the region suffered one of the worst employment declines in the weeks following the pandemic ‘lock-down’ with a decline on payroll jobs of 7.9%.
“We knew that with our economy so dependent on construction, hospitality, tourism, leisure and retail, that local employment would take a COVID hit but to see that one in every 12 paid positions has been lost reveals the true extent of the impact and the work ahead to recover these livelihoods” Mr Billson said.
“And these are payroll position – we have to also address the impact on local business owners and the self-employed that create their own livelihoods and job-opportunities for others on the Peninsula.
“The ABS stats are confronting but also make clear the challenge before us as a community to work our way back and to nurture a sustainable local economy that can support durable employment and a broader range of career and business opportunities.
“It is essential that we all put our best efforts into supporting a re-starting of businesses that have been able to hang on over the ‘hybernation’, find new ways of supporting business activity and the jobs recovery this will enable and build on the regions strengths to get the Peninsula ‘back in business’, Mr Billson said.
Executive Chairman of Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism Board (MPRTB) and CfMP Board member, Tracey Cooper, said the ABS stats were a window into the devastating impact the pandemic has had on the visitor industry generally and particularly on the Mornington Peninsula.
“It is not hard to imagine the job losses and business impacts in the visitor industry when the COVID-containment rules means a visit to a friend or a destination like the Peninsula is a no-no”, Ms Cooper said.
“MPRTB’s own economic and employment analysis paints a picture of the wind being taken out of the sail of the Peninsula visitor economy and tourism-orientated businesses and very stiff headwinds in our face.”
“Really welcomed Government support has helped some businesses keep their lights on, but some really clever uses of stimulus programs, that help local businesses to recover and reimagine themselves in a new operating environment, will be needed to see the local tourism industry be the jobs-driver many people have taken for granted.
“We’ll need to stimulate the entrepreneurship, investment and business confidence needed to encourage business owners and operators to ‘have a go again’ and rebuild viable operations that can support jobs returning”, Ms Copper added.
In its budget submission to Council, the CfMP called for a 're-basing' of the draft Shire budget to take account of COVID-19 impact.
"The CfMP is pleased the Council continues to assert ‘Our Prosperity’ as one of the four strategic themes that underpin the strategic framework for the Council Plan 2017-2021.
"While not diminishing the other three (3) strategic themes of ‘Our Place’, ‘Our Connectivity’ and ‘Our Wellbeing’, the CfMP is concerned that the ‘Our Prosperity’ theme continues to attract a meagre share of Council resources. The proposed budget commits less than 1% (0.939%) of total services outlays to ‘Our Prosperity’ programs or just over half of 1% (0.664%) of total income.
Mr Billson said the CfMP believes this to be a gross underinvestment in pursuing a key objective that goes to the capacity of the municipality to generate the employment and economic activity needed to sustain livelihoods, living standards, services and the quality of life for the Peninsula community.
The CfMP contends that more demonstrable action is required to support, encourage and enable the local business community so as to foster employment and create the right conditions for investment and sustainable growth, and that this need to unquestionably be part of ‘the business’ of Council.
“We urge Council to really boost its local capital works program to provide a stronger pipeline of construction projects that can be undertaken by local companies and keep the significant local building industry ‘on the tools’ and able keep the local construction workforce and apprentices in work”, Mr Billson said.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) ‘6160.0.55.001 - Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, Week ending 2 May 2020’ report revealed that the Mornington Peninsula is one of worst hit regions in Victoria when it comes to job losses due to COVID-19.
The data that presents changes in payroll jobs between the week ending 14 March 2020 (in the week Australia recorded its 100th confirmed COVID-19 case) and the week ending 18 April 2020 at the Statistical Area 4 (SA4) level shows that the Mornington Peninsula had a decrease of 7.9% - the third worst hit region in Victoria. Only Warrnambool and the South West (8.6%) and North West Region (8.2%) experienced greater decreases than the Mornington Peninsula.