Shaken from a third COVID-19 lockdown, the Victorian business community is demanding more clarity on potential future shutdowns as the state government draws up a support package.
Victorian retailers and hospitality venues are able to reopen from Thursday, with Premier Daniel Andrews announcing the five-day “circuit breaker” will end as planned.
While welcome news for traders, the national employer association has questioned whether the shutdown was necessary to rein in Melbourne’s Holiday Inn quarantine hotel outbreak.
“It is clear that testing and tracing were the keys to resolving this potential outbreak, and not the lockdown which was disproportionate to the risk,” Ai Group’s Victorian head Tim Piper said on Wednesday.
“We need to learn from this lockdown and adjust the responses accordingly. That means to immediately have another look at best practice quarantine around the country and not kick it down the road.”
The snap shutdown is estimated to have cost the state economy more than $2.3 billion in lost or postponed household spending, Ai Group said.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce chief executive Paul Guerra acknowledged the state’s third lockdown in 12 months had “knocked business confidence”.
“We can get that back if the state government gives us greater clarity on how the decisions to go into lockdown are made,” he said.
“What is the trigger and what are the guidelines? We need to put our economy first and find ways to manage our borders that doesn’t compromise our economy and our livelihoods.”
Mr Andrews has reiterated a support package is on the way for impacted businesses, although he is yet to provide a timeline for those funds to flow.
“We’ll make sure we get payments and other supports out there as fast as we possibly can,” the premier told reporters on Wednesday.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien says that’s not good enough.
“Businesses are going to the wall,” he told reporters.
“There are businesses that came into this lockdown that will not reopen their doors and the premier needs to announce a support package now.
“Businesses need to know, can they survive.”
The Victorian Greens want compensation to extend to the thousands of casuals who missed out on a major weekend of work for the Australian Open, Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day.
“We rely on them often to put food on our tables and they shouldn’t be in trouble putting food on theirs,” Greens MP Tim Read said.
Pressed for answers in Victorian parliament, Treasurer Tim Pallas said he recognised the need for ongoing support for not just businesses but workers as well.
“But we have no announcements, of course, to make at this stage,” he said during question time.