Karl Stefanovic, host: Welcome back to the show, it's good to have your company across Australia this morning. Well millions of dollars continues to roll in to help people recover after bushfires destroyed their homes and livelihoods. However, business owners don't want to rely on donated money, they want to get back to earning their own.
Allison Langdon, host: But without tools, supplies and shop fronts that's nearly impossible and that's where BizRebuild comes in. It's led by Sir Peter Cosgrove who until last year was the 26th Governor-General of Australia and he joins us now. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.
Sir Peter Cosgrove, Chair, BizRebuild: Good morning to you all.
Allison: Karl and I, we were just out in East Gippsland yesterday talking to a lot of business owners. They've been hit really hard with tourists not coming and they all said the same thing, they don't want a handout but they accept that there's a very good chance without some kind of help that a lot of them will go under this winter. So how can you help?
Sir Peter: Well we've got this set up now that's been dreamed up by the Business Council of Australia. It's called BizRebuild and what it's designed to do is to funnel giant resources through from the business community in Australia, the wider business community, into recovering those businesses so that they can get back on their feet and remain the economic glue of their communities. Without them, those communities just gently fold and fade away and we don't want that. So we're doing this as a business community, as a wider business community, putting in funds, jobs and goods in-kind to get people back on their feet.
Karl: Sir Peter, you and I have spent a deal of time together after Cyclone Yasi in far north Queensland. We watched the slow rebuild there and I thought you did an extraordinary job doing that and this country is in no better hands with you looking after this part of it. How are you going to incentivise this? How are we going to bring people back to those areas? As Ally said, we were out there yesterday, they really need people to come back. How are you going to incentivise that and keep these small businesses afloat?
Sir Peter: Quick, direct action. What we've got to do is have people on the ground. We're doing that. We've got to engage with the community leaders, particularly the business leaders, we're doing that. For example today we've got about 60 mayors and representatives of chambers of commerce from the damaged areas in today, in the parliament, and we're going to sit with them, establish their immediate needs and form a relationship ongoing so we can point aid directly at the areas of greatest need. We will rely on their expertise for their area to say 'this is what we need.' An example will be a popup at Mogo. A popup, a sort of business hub in Mogo.
Sir Peter: We will have that up and running quite soon through the generosity of people who will donate demountables and the people who will carry them. I think it's ATCO and Linfox will bring a convoy of these demountables to that little settlement so that it can get back up to some level of attraction to tourists and supporting the local community.
Allison: Because I think that's what people want to hear. They want to hear practical solutions. A great example I heard was a small carpentry business in Batemans Bay. They lost all of their tools so Bunnings stepped in and replaced all of the tools, that saved a local company and it saved local jobs.
Sir Peter: Nine young men, I think they are all young men, back in work with tools. The only thing stopping them was that they didn't have the wherewithal to continue the business. But that's just the tip of the iceberg from our point of view. We will have, we hope, situations like that, various ways and means across the whole of the bushfire area. People back in work, that's hugely important.
Karl: We have the ability here if we learn from some of these lessons and we do exactly what you are trying to set up to, I guess, prepare ourselves for future events like this but also to connect rural areas, regional areas and areas that have been isolated through things like bushfires or floods or whatever the case may be in bringing these people within the cities out to those areas and helping them through things like droughts and bushfires. Don't you think?
Sir Peter: Absolutely. We are trying to get all of the big businesses in Australia that might ordinarily run a conference in, I don't know, Melbourne or Sydney or one of the other major capitals, to say why don't you take your business conference this year now to one of those areas and give them your patronage and educate yourselves about the need on the ground. And we think we will get a sympathetic ear from Australia's big businesses in that regard.
Allison: Yeah, absolutely, Sir Peter Cosgrove, thank you so much for what you're doing and for joining us this morning. It's greatly appreciated.
Sir Peter: Thanks for your interest and the network's interest. The media has played a wonderful hand so far in this recovery.
Karl: Good on you Sir Peter. Thank you, we will see you very soon.
REBUILDING FOR A STRONGER AUSTRALIA
The business community’s BizRebuild initiative is working to quickly restore the jobs and small businesses that hold communities together to ensure bushfire affected towns do not fold and fade away.
BizRebuild, chaired by General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove (Retd), and members of his advisory committee, including Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott AO and President Tim Reed, today heard firsthand from around 50 mayors and local businesses from bushfire devastated communities.
Sir Peter told the community meeting at Parliament House: “We heard today the theme of disaster and setback repeated again and again across local communities. We also heard a very dire impression of the economic damage.’’
“We won’t let your communities fold and fade away.
“We want to lead a business recovery and larger businesses are already working to help smaller ones. Whether it’s getting someone a job in the short-term, whether it’s getting someone the tools they need to start working again, or providing a temporary shopfront for a gutted business.’’
“Our job is to get money and action on the ground as fast as possible. We are not going to be bogged down by bureaucracy. We are not going to ask you to fill out complicated forms. We are not going to ask you to jump through numerous hoops. We want to make this as easy as possible,’’ Sir Peter said.
The meeting heard from communities, many in drought, how the bushfires had resulted in 100 per cent of holiday bookings evaporating, businesses shutting, and jobs disappearing. Others said their agriculture and forestry industries had been decimated.
Mayors said there was a desperate need to get cash and credit flowing back into their local economies, tourists returning, and larger companies buying more from regional businesses.
Ms Westacott said: “Members of the business community cannot begin to comprehend the trauma local communities are facing but we have undertaken to work alongside them, providing the on-the-ground assistance they need to recover and rebuild.”
“BizRebuild will launch “flying squads” giving case management support to small businesses who need advice and guidance as they prepare to rebuild for even stronger future.”
Last week BizRebuild matched Beach House Stairs in Batemans Bay with Bunnings which sourced and donated new tools from across the state.
Acting quickly and providing the tools meant a local business was able to stay afloat, nine tradesmen stayed in work, earning wages and supporting their families and local communities.
BizRebuild aims to replicate these efforts across fire affected regions.
“We want to rekindle a sense of community in bushfire affected regions, give them a sense of hope and a road to recovery. Our response is designed to be practical and on-the-ground,’’ Ms Westacott said.
Mr Reed said: “This is about coordinating the resources that large companies have for impact. We want to help small businesses at the heart of these communities get back on track.’’
“Business Council of Australia members have given more than $33 million in donations, and millions more in in-kind support.
“We have already encouraged larger businesses to waive or defer debts wherever possible to alleviate the pressure, and to make sure cash is coming in by paying invoices before they are due and holding corporate events in devastated communities,” Mr Reed said.
A snapshot of some businesses already acting is available here.
More information about BizRebuild is available here.