Victoria’s business community has criticised Premier Daniel Andrews’ roadmap out of the coronavirus lockdowns as a “road to nowhere” and a “document of despair” that has failed to give business owners enough guidance about how and when to reopen.
Not much changed for the printing sector in Premier Andrews’ announcement on Sunday, although the two week extension to September 28 of the current stage 4 lockdowns in Melbourne and the step-by-step process for re-opening will continue to slug print demand and endanger business sustainability further.
In his announcement, Andrews foreshadowed that after September 28 and so long as COVID case numbers are suitably reduced, Melbourne will take a “step” into returning to some kind of normal.
Andrews said this involves returning over 100,000 employees to work in sectors including construction, manufacturing, and landscape garden and maintenance workers who operate alone.
Childcare will also open with permits.
It also means bubbles will be created for people living alone and single parents meaning one person could be nominated to visit them in their home to help through this difficult time.
“By moving from stages to steps, we’re giving Victorians a long-term plan for our path out of restrictions and into COVID Normal,” Andrews said.
“Importantly, we want the whole of the state to be at COVID Normal by the end of the year – making sure family barbeques, summer holidays and a trip to the beach can all still happen.
“These steps will be guided by dates – and the data. That means if we’re on-track to take a step forward, we can do so confidently.
“I know for a lot of businesses, they’ll want to know what comes next for them too, and certainty to plan for the future. And while the current arrangements will remain in place until at least 28 September, we’ll continue meeting with you – and listening to you – to make sure you have that certainty going forward,” Andrews said.
Regional Victoria restrictions will ease from September 13 with up to five people allowed to gather in public places like beaches or parks, while a maximum of two people can gather in households.
“I understand there’ll be some people who’ll be disappointed, those who wanted more and sooner. But these are the steady and sustainable steps that our health experts tell us will see us out of this – safely,” Andrews said.
Business community responds
The response from the business community was swift.
Ai Group CEO Innes Willox labelled the roadmap a “document of despair for industry and their employees” that failed to set clear and measurable steps for reopening.
“Rather than providing the hope and optimism required, along with clear and measurable steps for businesses to open up, today’s announcement will only prolong the economic and social pain that all Victorians are feeling,” Willox said.
Willox said industry consultation with the Victorian government about how to safely reopen workplaces and the economy moving had been ignored.
“There will be catastrophic economic, health and social damage caused by the continued lockdown and prospect of more months of sharply diminished activity,” he said.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce Industry chief executive Paul Guerra criticised the plan as a “road to nowhere” that doesn’t do enough for the business community.
“We were hoping for a road to recovery. Today we have been delivered a road to nowhere,” he said.
“This does not deliver for the thousands of businesses that are trying to keep this state going and trying to keep their doors open.
“We can’t continue to let business and jobs be decimated on the way to controlling the spread of the virus.”
Kate Carnell, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, called on the Victorian government to cover the closing down costs of small businesses with tough trading restrictions to remain in place until the end of October, at the earliest.
She said Andrews’ announcement was a devastating blow to thousands of small businesses – many of which having no choice but to close their doors.
“Under the Victorian Government’s roadmap, many small businesses will not be able to open for another eight weeks at least and that’s only on the condition that there is less than five cases per day as a state-wide average,” Carnell said.
“On that basis, small businesses that were thinking this lockdown would only last for another couple of weeks, now don’t know if they will ever be able to re-open.
“For those struggling small businesses that know they cannot remain viable under these imposed conditions, the Victorian Government needs to step up and help them make the sensible business decision to exit.
“This means the Victorian Government needs to pay for all break-lease termination fees – not just on the premises but also equipment so small business owners can walk away without further penalties.”
The Real Media Collective CEO Kellie Northwood said, as predicted, not much has changed for businesses that are approved for “open for on-site work”.
“We did not anticipate much change for the ‘open for on-site work’ businesses and industries in which we are included – Paper, Print, Publishing and ancillary support services,” Northwood said.
“This has been the case and our member businesses can maintain the same practices as they are currently operating under. However, it is critical to maintain, review and regularly communicate to your teams your COVID-Safe Plans.
“It is compulsory to have an active COVID-Safe Plan when operating in Victoria under the stage 4 restrictions.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt posted a statement saying while the decisions about the Victorian restrictions are a matter for Victoria, they would like to see the restrictions lifted as soon as it is safe to do so.
“The announcement from the Victorian Government to extend lockdown arrangements will be hard and crushing news for the people of Victoria, and a further reminder of the impact and costs that result from not being able to contain outbreaks of COVID-19, resulting in high rates of community transmission,” the statement said.
“The proposed roadmap will come at a further economic cost.
“While this needs to be weighed up against mitigating the risk of further community outbreak, it is also true that the continued restrictions will have further impact on the Victorian and national economy, in further job losses and loss of livelihoods, as well as impacting on mental health.”
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