By Shane Pinnegar

Tomorrow is an important day for many Australians – for many of my freelancer and sole trader friends.

Tomorrow our government debate the proposed JobKeeper allowance, which will apparently pay every eligible employee (through their employers) $1500 a fortnight for the duration of this economic shutdown, thus enabling those businesses to rise like phoenixes (is that the plural of phoenix??) from the ashes after the world is safe to walk in again.

This is, of course, of paramount importance to many Australians struck without an income in the Covidpocalypse, and I am certain I’m not the only one watching developments with some trepidation and anxiety. I don’t WANT a handout, per se, but the fact is I have zero income and very little chance of finding one for months. I fall through the cracks of the standard JobSeeker allowance, and I am nervous that I will fall through the cracks of the JobKeeper as well – but maybe not. It will depend on eligibility criteria, of which I have heard little at this early stage.

The problem I envisage, is that this financial year to date my income has been almost exactly 50% through my sole trader business (author, writer for hire, chef for hire, caterer) and 50% casual chef work for multiple employers. Eligibility for casual employees has already been laid down as having to have worked twelve month for a single employer – and be on good enough terms with that employer that they choose to keep you on through this.

So I am excluded as a casual. If eligibility as a sole trader relies on a similarly long tenure with specific clients, I’m out. If eligibility revolves around a minimum turnover as a sole trader, I will most likely not make the cut. If it’s predicated upon my partner’s income like the JobSeeker payment is, I’ll also miss out.

If I miss out, we might lose our Perth house before this is through.

I’ve spent my lifetime revelling in the fact that I do dare to be different, that I rarely fit into any standard pigeonholes society tries to squeeze most people into. More often I’m the square peg refusing to go into the triangular hole. But there’s no doubt that this creates problems and always has. I’ve often said that I try to operate on the periphery of society as much as I can, but the result is this falling in between cracks as far as The Machine goes.

I remain hopeful for tomorrow’s decision. But even if I miss the cut, as stressful as that will be for us, I sincerely hope all my freelancer and sole trader and long-term casual friends who have lost their work are covered.

Fingers, toes and good bits are all crossed for tomorrow’s announcement.


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