Dan Andrews 'Health Over Economy' Lockdown Extension Crushes Commerce

Dan Andrews 'Health Over Economy' Lockdown Extension Crushes Commerce
Shops on Sydney Road in Brunswick display signs informing customers of their closure in Melbourne, Australia on Aug. 5, 2020. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Alex Joseph
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has challenged the Victorian government to pick up the costs incurred by small businesses who are unable to open due to the CCP virus extended stage four restrictions.

Carnell said the recently released roadmap out of lockdown by Andrew's government has failed to bring hope and has left many business owners uncertain if it's worth trying to holding on.

"Small businesses are telling us is that they are just giving up really, they have no idea how they're going to stay afloat going forward," she told Nine Networks Today Show on Sept. 7.

"Yes there's a plan, but for many of them they won't be open until the end of November. They have no idea how to hang in until then," she said.

While Carnell noted that Commonwealth and state government support packages such as JobKeeper and commercial tenancy relief do cover some of the costs lockdown had caused, she explained that these packages do not cover business owners for ongoing payments towards staff entitlements, bank loans, and equipment leases.

"Surely the government should look at picking up those costs—it's not the businesses fault they can't reopen, it's the government saying well no you can't reopen," Carnell declared.

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews on Sept. 6 announced a highly anticipated four-step roadmap out of the lockdown utilised by his government to combat the second wave of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Under the road map, retail trade and hospitality venues can only reopen in Stage 3, which will be declared when there is only an average of five or fewer traceable new COVID-19 cases occurring in a fortnight.

These targets are so "ethereal," it's understandable why businesses are seriously thinking of folding, Carnell said.

Carnell believes the Andrews government needs to consider helping business cover the accumulating debts, including helping business break their leases and close down if that is necessary.

"We are talking to the Victorian government and they will have to come to the party on picking up these costs that businesses have no control over," she said.

The  Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Paul Guerra shared Carnell's disappointment with the roadmap.

"The business community had high hopes that today's announcement would signal the end of Stage 4 restrictions on 13 September and instead businesses are left frustrated and facing more weeks of lost revenue and mounting costs they can't afford," he said in a media release.

"Victoria's economy is experiencing its biggest crisis in modern times with thousands of businesses unable to operate for most of this year, and the government needs to allow Victorians to get back to work while managing the health crisis. This cannot continue to be a choice of health over the economy."

Andrews has maintained that his four-step roadmap is the best way forward for Victoria. Step two according to the Victoria Premier will see over 100,000 people from specific industries returning to work, most notably in construction and manufacturing.

The roadmap pays consideration to both the economic stability and health, the state premier said.

"It's not an easy task," Andrews said at a press conference on Sept. 6. "You have to weigh up public health risk, ... with economic dividend."

He acknowledged that not all businesses received the news that they wanted but rejects any claims they were not consulted.

"But that's a different thing to not being listened to. I would reject that. That's simply wrong," he said.