THE state opposition has slammed the government’s COVID-19 “roadmap” to reopening as putting Victorians on “a road to nowhere”, arguing the “one-size-fits-all” plan was killing jobs in regional Victoria.
Locally, Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said he was devastated for so many people in Gippsland and further afield, including Melburnians locked down for even longer.
“I’ve already heard from business people in tears who found today’s [Sunday’s] ‘roadmap’ out a dagger to the heart of their livelihoods,” he said.
“These are not big corporates, these are mums and dads running small business who see ruin ahead and more lay-offs of their valued staff.
“I see frustration from regional people, who try to interpret the maze of the roadmap and are already realising that on the rules laid out for Melbourne, their local area would qualify now for step four.
“But we’re all lumped in with Geelong and other regional areas and our fate ultimately tied to a metric of ‘zero cases statewide’ for 14 days – whenever that may be.”
There are currently no known cases of COVID-19 in Wellington Shire.
“Hang in there Gippsland. Today is not a good day,” Mr O’Brien said.
“But the sun will rise tomorrow and we will pull together to support each other and get through this disastrous situation.
“If you need help, reach out.”
More broadly, leader of the Victorian Nationals Peter Walsh agreed the “one-size-fits-all approach out of lockdown” would kill jobs, businesses and regional economies in country Victoria.
“Why is the hotel, pub or bakery in Wycheproof forced to keep their doors shut when there hasn’t ever been one active COVID case in the Buloke Shire?” he asked.
“The Andrews Labor Government has missed an opportunity to provide a lifeline to regional Victorian businesses.
“Daniel Andrews has failed to do his job and now he’s callously denying thousands of Victorians an opportunity to return to theirs.”
Opposition leader Michael O’Brien said on Sunday Victorians had been robbed of hope the government would get the crisis under control, or was competent enough to do so.
“Daniel Andrews promised a roadmap out of lockdown, but instead we’ve got a plan for more lockdowns,” he said.
“Labor is only offering Victorians more job losses, more businesses forced to close their doors for good and more sacrifices by each and every Victorian.
“We have all played our part to stop the spread of this deadly virus, but today Labor has ripped the heart out of small business and taken a wrecking ball to our state’s economy.
“Many businesses have discovered today they will be forced to keep their doors closed for weeks, with no promise of a date they will be allowed to reopen.”
Mr O’Brien said families, businesses and communities had done the right thing but would
continue to live under the strictest lockdown in the nation because of the failures of Daniel Andrews’ government.
“This is two more weeks of lockdown we didn’t have to have,” he said.
“Failures in hotel quarantine and contract tracing that led to the second wave lay squarely at the feet of the Andrews Labor Government.
“Victorians have done the right thing.
“We have stayed at home. We have sacrificed time with family and friends. We deserve better than this.”
The Australian Hotels Association state president David Canny said Victoria’s pub industry was “bitterly disappointed” with more delays to reopening, placing publicans on a “debt cliff” which would result in many not meeting Premier Daniel Andrews’ desire for a family Christmas.
“We are on the verge of becoming a welfare state if our members are any indication of what the lockdown restrictions are having on us,” he said.
“Our country pubs and those in other states have proven the hospitality industry can comply with restrictions and minimise cases.
“We believe we can achieve this here.”
Mr Canny said Victorian pubs had proven they could manage the COVID-19 risks by implementing plans for social distancing, superior hygiene practices, digital contact tracing and robust measures for patron management.
“Local pubs are on the debt cliff and will never recover if they cannot re-open soon,” Mr Canny said.
“We could lose the iconic corner pub because of the debt the Victorian government restrictions have put on them.
“We are on the edge of that debt cliff and unless government commences our re-opening, then it is over we go.”
Victorian Chamber of Commerce chief executive Paul Guerra said the business community had been left frustrated and facing more weeks of lost revenue and mounting costs they could not afford.
“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,” he said.
“This cannot continue to be a choice of health over economy.
“We will continue to do whatever we can and work with both the federal and state government to not only deliver hope, but to deliver jobs, by keeping your business alive.”
Those who need support can phone Lifeline on 131 114.