Heather Smith on the COVID-19 impact in Australia

Heather Smith, chartered accountant and host of the Cloud Stories podcast, "calls in" to the show and gives us an update on what's going on with coronavirus / COVID-19 in Australia. We'd love to hear how you're doing, too! Call our listener voicemail box at ‪(202) 695-1040‬. Leave a message! We'll definitely listen, and we might even play it on the air.

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Blake Oliver: [00:00:04] Hey, everybody, Blake, here. Last month, David and I put out a call to all of our listeners to give us a call. We set up a Google Voice number that you could dial and leave a message. One of my favorite people, Heather Smith, heard that and sent us a message. So, the following is an update from Heather Smith on the state of COVID-19, down in Australia. She's based in Brisbane. Heather is the host of the popular podcast, Cloud Stories. So, if you haven't subscribed, definitely check that out. Search 'Cloud Stories, Heather Smith,' and give it a listen! I hope you enjoy this update from Heather Smith. If you want to leave us a message, you can dial us. Call (202) 695-1040 and leave a message. We'll take a listen, and maybe we'll even play it on the air. Now, over to Heather Smith.
Heather Smith: [00:01:05] Hey, Blake, David, and The Cloud Accounting Podcast listeners, it's Heather Smith, here. I'm dialing in from Brisbane, Australia. For us here in Australia, COVID-19 is coming off the back of the unimaginably terrible bushfires. We had over 11,000 bushfires burning 5.4 million hectares of land, killing over a billion animals. As a country, Australians were quite frazzled, recovering from these bushfires, when the coronavirus started emerging.
[00:01:33] Here are some snippets about what's been happening here. There have been measures limiting interaction, which have gradually become more restrictive through the month of March. From midnight tonight, 30th of March, indoor and outdoor meetings are limited to two people, with some exceptions, and on-the-spot fines enforcing them. Plus, many states have closed their borders. Federal Parliament has passed two packages worth over $17 billion in a response to the outbreak of the virus; plus, individual states have been announcing their own packages.
[00:02:06] Some of these stimulus packages are tied into what the business will report to the tax office, so what they will report; not what they have, what they will report. So, they're somewhat open to manipulation. In simple terms, the higher the payroll reported, the higher the stimulus received. While I'm sure anomalies will be investigated, you can imagine businesses are trying to optimize the outcome. There'll be a moratorium on renters being evicted for the next six months. They're also looking at that for commercial renters, too. Unfortunately, lots of staff are being laid off. Qantas laid off 20,000 people. Virgin Australia laid off 8,000 people. 
[00:02:47] Though, as we head into lockdown, it's not all doom and gloom. The buzz word seems to be 'pivot.' Retail shops are closing down, though notably, weirdly, this has not actually been enforced by government. But they are closing down, and they're pivoting towards online sales. Cafes are pivoting to offer takeaway meal packs, and cafe owners have told me- some of them have told me they've never been as busy as they are now. Butchers have told me the last two weeks of sales have been equivalent to a year's worth of sales.
[00:03:28] I also know of crocodile-spotting helicopter tours who have pivoted towards helping farmers muster their cattle. Also, some lovely news - our animal shelters have reported all animals have been fostered with three times the applications to available animals being submitted. That's our RSPCA, our Royal Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. So, that's lovely.
[00:03:58] Accountants and bookkeepers are trying their best to keep on top of news - what is fact? What's speculation? - while supporting clients as best they can, while the framework underneath them keeps shifting. They are exhausted. They are under a great deal of strain. They've been working very hard to try and support their clients. For me, like many modern accountants, I'm quite comfortable working entirely online. I've been proactively engaging in self-isolation since mid-March, entering my third week now. My family, too, are also working from home.
[00:04:35] So, within my community, I know of more people who've committed or attempted to commit suicide in the last fortnight than who actually have coronavirus. I've been running an online community chat group, every afternoon at 4:00 p.m., for our community to come along, and decompress, and share their day. What I'd like to leave with, as well as the stay at home and be safe, please call, FaceTime, Zoom, or connect with everyone - your family, your friends, your neighbors, your business owners - and check that they're okay. Take care and remember to breathe! 

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