Business: Where’s the logic in this?

19 Oct Business: Where’s the logic in this?

Nick Evans and Ben Wilmot – The Australian – Monday 19 October 2020

Business chiefs including one of Australia’s most powerful chief executives, Wesfarmers boss Rob Scott, have condemned the slow pace at which Daniel Andrews will lift Melbourne’s strict lockdown rules and say it is difficult to see a rationale for the delay.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the “wait and see” approach was failing Victorians and the limited easing of restrictions did not make sense, including an expansion of the 5km travel zone to 25km.

“There’s no point having a 25km travel zone if nothing is open,” Ms Westacott said.

“This is an inexplicable and unacceptable delay for Victorians and small businesses who are hanging on by a day, not a week. “There is no sound reason to continue the restrictions on business, especially with case numbers clearly on a downward trajectory.

“We urge the Victorian government to end the trade-off between a health, social and economic recovery and put in place a robust strategy that delivers on all fronts to protect lives and livelihoods.”

Council of Small Business Organisations Australia chief executive Peter Strong said the Premier had “still not presented his plan for economic recovery” and attacked his performance at his daily press conferences.

“He talks to Victorians like they’re a pack of idiots, and you aren’t,” Mr Strong told the ABC.

“The government doesn’t tell Victorians what they’re doing.

“I think he’s never run a business. He thinks you turn the key and the shop opens again and everything happens. It’s not like that. And the lack of respect for the business community is profound.”

Mr Scott said on Sunday he was pleased to see Mr Andrews lifting restrictions on Melbourne households doing it tough through the extended lockdowns, but echoed Ms Westacott’s confusion about the logic behind the new rules.

“It’s still difficult to understand the rationale for some of the changes and ongoing business restrictions, from a public health and wellbeing perspective,” he said.

“You can go to the hairdresser or a skatepark and have more freedom to travel, but you can’t go to your local Bunnings warehouse.”

Under the changes, Melburnians can move within 25km from their homes from Monday and socialise more freely outdoors. Some small businesses will be allowed to reopen, including hairdressers, allied health centres, inperson real estate auctions and small businesses offering home maintenance and renovation.

The government has pushed back plans for reopening the vast majority of retail and hospitality until November 1, triggering criticism from Mr Scott, whose Bunnings, Target, Kmart and Officeworks chains have been hit by the Melbourne lockdowns.

He said there was significant “pent-up” demand for the return of retail stores and while Wesfarmers had been able to keep paying its Melbourne staff through the shutdowns, smaller businesses had been hit hard.

“Reopening will be an important step towards rebuilding a very damaged Victorian economy, and providing some hope and relief for people in the leadup to Christmas,” he said.

Australian Industry Group Victorian head Tim Piper said industry in the state was “being taken on a protracted journey towards fully reopening with little certainty provided today for tens of thousands of businesses and an increasingly frustrated community .

There was virtually nothing in today’s announcement for manufacturing, construction, retailing, hospitality and regional businesses.

“The roadmap to recovery was always a maze that has now been turned into a long and winding road,” he said.

Shopping Centre Council of Australia executive director Angus Nardi said the easing of restrictions was a positive step forward. Ms Westacott urged the government to consult with business groups on how to get the state’s economy moving again when the lockdown ended, saying the slow pace at which restrictions were being eased was not helping Victorians in recovering from the coronavirus crisis.

The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, tweeted that he was “deeply shocked at the disparity imposed on VIC’s faith communities today. Public Health stubbornly silent on reason why. Rest of OZ is doing it right. Why not us? Life, family & faith matter.”

Victorian Liberal Senator James Paterson branded Mr Andrews an “authoritarian” who had smeared his own citizens as “enemies of the state”.

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