The Victorian government is being accused of “box ticking” rather than proper consultation with small business over the roadmap out of lockdown restrictions.
The day after business groups wrote an open letter saying the measures are causing massive economic and social damage, Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) chief executive Peter Strong criticised the premier’s office.
Victorians are nervously awaiting Sunday’s confirmation of what measures will be eased the following day.
The state government and health authorities have made it clear that case numbers are still too high to implement all the changes originally planned for Monday.
But business groups are urging the Victorian government to speed up the process.
Strong said until recently the state government had not paid proper heed to small business concerns.
“It’s been box ticking, it definitely hasn’t been proper consultation,” he told ABC Radio.
“The premier’s office doesn’t seem to reply to anybody.
“Let’s talk about how we can open up.”
Strong praised Small Business Minister Jaala Pulford, saying her department had set up a small business recovery group that had met for the first time a couple of weeks ago.
“That’s the first we have seen … the first proper consultation,” he said.
Previously it had been video calls involving as many as 100-plus people trying to put their concerns across to government officials, Strong said.
He added the NSW government had undertaken “proper consultation” since March, with weekly meetings.
The COSBOA joined with the Business Council of Australia in Thursday’s open letter, saying Victoria’s roadmap timetable must be accelerated.
“Extreme lockdowns and border closures are papering over the urgent need for a workable plan to live safely with this virus,” BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.
“We all recognise that in the long run there can be no trade-off between health, social and economic recovery, but our strategy must deliver on all fronts, or it will fail.
“Victoria needs to lead and bring forward its timetable to open up so people can get on with their lives and learn to live safely side-by-side with the virus.
Also on Friday, Melbourne pubs called on the state government to give them a viable reopening policy as they struggle with growing financial debts.
“Pubs are on the edge of a debt cliff and we call on the Victorian government to immediately put into effect an ‘earlier exit strategy’ for Victoria’s pubs as their financial plight reached its worst on record,” said Australian Hotels Association Victoria president David Canny.
The association wants pubs open in some form for the October 24 AFL grand final.
Canny said no Victorian regional pubs had recorded any infections since reopening.