Publican toasts PM for JobKeeper payment

Hospitality workers have been heading for Centrelink in droves after the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered countless cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs. Now, there a new government scheme – the JobKeeper payment – designed to keep those jobs secure until the crisis passes.

Greg Kabar, Licensee of The Royal Hotel, said of his 20 staff, almost of half of them had another primary source of income. The remaining half – about 10 employees – will take advantage of the JobKeeper payment.

“We’re very grateful for it,” said Mr Kabar on Monday as his office staff finalised the details.

“It took a bit of figuring out to see who could and who couldn’t [apply]. There are still so many people that will slip through that gap. We’re playing it as straight down the line as we read it to be.”

The JobKeeper payment is designed to support businesses like The Royal Hotel to keep staff on the books even while the business is closed or suffering from Covid-19 restrictions. Employers can claim up to $1500 per employee each fortnight, so long as the employee receives a minimum of $1500 for that period, before tax. Employers can top up the payment if their staff collect a higher wage. 

“When the announcement was made, it came as a real welcome surprise,” said Mr Kabar, who had to close the main areas of the pub and rely on takeaway food to keep some type of income levelling out the tills.

“[It was] not a jump off the couch moment or anything, but I definitely sat up straight when I heard it.”

Mr Kabar said there was an immediate “flurry of messages” and he and his staff have had to spend some time digging into the minutia to understand what the payment does and how to apply for it.

He said it took them at least three days to digest it, but “on the surface, it’s all very promising.”

“It’s been a massive relief for a large part of our industry,” he said. “We just weren’t viable without it.”

The payments are set to start on the first of May and Mr Kabar, a self-proclaimed ‘former socialist columnist for the Tumut & Adelong Times,’ said he’s growing more pleased with Prime Minister Scott Morrison by the day, especially in light of what he says was a weak response from the PM to last summer’s bushfires.

“We’ve all learned from that (the bushfires). He’s learned and we’ve learned and we’re all kind of getting in step together,” said Mr Kabar.

“It’s hard to fault his effort. You look around the world and he’s doing things that are pretty good. The further we’ve got into this, the more assured I’ve felt. 

“I’m feeling better today than I did a month ago.”

Mr Kabar contrasted that feeling with the ‘dread’ that he imagined Americans must feel as the crisis grows worse in their country under the leadership of President Donald Trump.

“To me, it’s always been clear that [Scott] Morrison is telling us to stay home. He’s bending over backwards to help facilitate that,” said Mr Kabar, approving of the government’s support to keep workers and consumers safe.

“[The JobKeeper payment’ has given us relief on the business aspect of the current dilemma,” he said. “Now we can solely focus on the health aspect of it, which I think is very important.”

For The Royal, questions around providing takeaway food still continue, with Mr Kabar weighing up the best way to protect the business and the health of his staff. He said the takeaway only keeps three people employed, at best, with two in the kitchen and one processing transactions. 

There are still ten people who rely on The Royal as their primary source of income and Mr Kabar said he’s intending to offer all of them the JobKeeper payment, ensuring that The Royal and its employees will be ready for action once the pandemic eases.