The decision to extend the current Victorian lockdown in the Melbourne area for another seven days from midnight tonight (Thursday) is a big blow to many businesses and the Government must commit to getting out of lockdown as quickly as possible, the state’s business community says.
“For some businesses, this lockdown will be really tough and the support the State Government has provided is essential. The additional $209-million in business support is welcome and will be a lifeline for some – but it will not get all businesses back and firing,” warned Tim Piper, the Victorian Head of the national employer association, the Australian Industry Group (known as the Ai Group), said.
“Employers are encouraging their people to get tested and vaccinated to help shorten this lockdown and move closer towards a living-with-Covid approach.
“The ongoing uncertainty for business is ‘where to from here?’ We just don’t know how long this lockdown will last and how and when we can resume the path to sustained recovery,” Piper stated.
Everyone must work to keep regional Victoria open
According to the Ai Group, employers are pleased that the Government has recognised the differing circumstances of regional Victoria to that in Melbourne and eased regional lockdown measures.
“We hope that everybody will work within the framework offered by the Government to keep the regions open,” Piper said. “It’s vital that we maintain open borders that keep freight moving to support business continuity – not just for Victoria, but [also] for the rest of the country.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has called for the return of a tailored Federal support scheme, given that the extended lockdown in Melbourne is set to cost more than $2-billion in lost retail trade.
The organisation’s CEO, Paul Zahra, said given that there have been 33 days of state-imposed lockdowns in Australia in the first half of 2021 alone, it’s clear that ongoing financial assistance is needed, starting with Victorian businesses.
A week ago, the state’s recovery seemed to be on track
“If this virus has taught us anything, it’s that our plans and progress can change very quickly with little notice,” Zahra noted.
“A week ago, our economic recovery was on track – business confidence was at record highs and the Melbourne CBD was getting its mojo back. We were starting to think that the worst of Covid was behind us.
“Victoria can’t do this alone. The Federal Government has done a great job to keep businesses afloat through JobKeeper and we need them to step up to the plate again.”
The ARA believes a reintroduction of a scheme like JobKeeper, which is targeted at those most in need, would be the simplest and easiest measure to implement, given the back-end systems are already known and worked well for a year.
“The scheme should be targeted – just for those negatively impacted by lockdowns,” Zahra said.