Covid-19 Cluster at Victoria Meat Plant Grows

May 4, 2020 Updated: May 4, 2020

Victorian businesses which have taken a significant hit to their turnover during the COVID-19 pandemic will be exempt from payroll tax.

A swag of fines and fees will also be frozen at their current rate to ease the cost of living in Victoria, under a new $491 million relief package from the state government.

The measures come as a COVID-19 outbreak at a Victorian meat processing facility continues to grow, with almost a dozen extra cases linked to the plant.

Treasurer Tim Pallas on May 5 confirmed 17 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, bringing the tally so far to 1423.

Eleven of the new cases are connected to a cluster of infected workers at the Cedar Meats facility in Brooklyn.

All 350 staff were tested for COVID-19 by May 1 and the site has been shut down, with a total of 45 cases now linked to the facility.

On a day when he was meant to deliver Victoria’s now-delayed budget, Pallas instead revealed an extra $491 million in virus relief measures.

Businesses participating in the federal government’s JobKeeper scheme will be exempt from payroll tax, at a cost of about $225 million to the state.

They also won’t have to pay WorkCover premiums on payments to their employees if their staff are currently stood down, costing the state about $200 million.

There are more than 80,000 businesses in Victoria who are either participating in JobKeeper or have expressed interest in doing so.

Some fines and fees will also be kept at their current rates in the coming year to save Victorians from coughing up about $66 million.

They include drivers licences and vehicle registration and the fire services property levy.

“The last thing we want to do is to add to pressures on people who are currently dealing with the difficulties associated with the pandemic event,” Pallas told reporters.

Asked why the state government hasn’t waived fees for drivers completely, the treasurer noted conditions are expected to improve in the coming financial year.

“There will be value for the community as economic recovery picks up, and that’s why we’ve taken the freeze that a freeze is probably the fairest way of managing this,” he said.

The package comes as the state’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee has begun a public inquiry into the Andrews’ government’s response to the pandemic.

The City of Melbourne will also be issuing free temporary parking permits to up top 8000 frontline workers responding to COVID-19.

Victoria Police fined 26 people for breaching COVID-19 restrictions in the 24 hours to Monday night, including a man found with an escort he had sourced online.

By Marnie Banger and Benita Kolovos