A house under construction at Cobbitty in Sydney.
A house under construction at Cobbitty in Sydney.

Finance minister hopeful of rental support

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is hopeful the national cabinet can strike a deal to take pressure off businesses being forced to pay rent for their workplaces, even if they have shut down because of the coronavirus.

The cabinet, made up of federal, state and territory leaders, is meeting on Friday and commercial and residential rents are on the agenda.

Senator Cormann said many businesses are facing the "perfect storm" of a drop-off in revenue coupled with continuing fixed costs.

"One of the big fixed costs is obviously rental obligations," he told Sky News.

While commercial tenancies are regulated at the state level, Senator Cormann is hopeful the meeting can come up with sensible, pragmatic solutions that spread the pain to "ensure that we all have the best possible chance to get through this".

He also noted governments themselves are landlords and rent out space to businesses.

"There is an opportunity for the governments, state and federal, to lead by example in terms of the way we conduct ourselves," Senator Cormann said.

Some landlords are already offering discounts on rent to tenants who are under financial pressure.

The national cabinet discussions come after retail mogul Solomon Lew said on Thursday he would not be paying rent on commercial premises after shutting stores and standing down 9000 staff globally.

The billionaire holds 43 per cent of Premier Investments, which runs outlets including Smiggle, Just Jeans and Peter Alexander.

Labor has called for a freeze on all rental evictions during Australia's coronavirus shutdown.

There are concerns if people are kicked onto the street it will not only impact the lives of families but make containment of the virus much more difficult.

Going on its own, Tasmania has already agreed on a 120-day evictions moratorium to help struggling renters.

Banks have offered freezes on mortgage repayments while energy companies are being urged to show compassion on unpaid bills, with more Australians facing unemployment due to businesses closing.

Originally published as Finance minister hopeful of rental support



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