Small business Parliament Regional Victoria COVID-19 Adjournment

Impact of COVID-19 Restrictions on Regional Victoria

10 June 2021

My adjournment matter this evening is for the Acting Premier, and the action I am seeking is that he return regional Victoria to COVID normal and release the data and modelling that are supposed to underpin the government’s decisions on restrictions. We have no cases in regional Victoria. Last year we were told that the government had developed a road map with rolling case averages, which was supposed to give the community a degree of certainty about restrictions and guide those decisions. This year we are being told that it is a day-by-day proposition. How can it possibly be both?

The government cannot tell us when spectators can return in numbers to country football and netball, for example, yet the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events has said that he has absolute confidence that the AFL Grand Final will be played at the MCG. Under the restrictions outlined for regional Victoria—and this is a doozy—you cannot have more than 10 kids in a group playing indoor sport but you can have 50 people in a brothel. You can have two and a half times the number of people in a brothel that you can have gathering for a child’s party in an outdoor park. Explain that one.

It is not unreasonable to raise legitimate questions about the government’s decision-making. The government needs to provide the data and the modelling it says underpin its restrictions. When millions of Victorians have been locked down, when businesses have been forced to shut their doors and when the mental health of Victorians and children in particular has been put on the line, it is not too much to ask the government to be more transparent about those decisions.

I want to highlight the toll this is having on people in my region. Sherri McDonald owns Anytime Fitness in Benalla. She says she felt beaten when the government decided not to open up gyms:

The government grants do not even cover our operating expenses for a weekly shutdown let alone a longer time period. We need proof that gyms are hotspots for the virus. We have QR codes, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, antibacterial spray … to protect not just staff but members. Put simply the government is killing small business.

Where is the modelling that says gyms are a greater risk? I asked for that months ago, but all we get from the government is ‘Trust us’. In Seymour Billy-Jo Royle says she is on the verge of closing her Black Cat Dance Studios as a consequence of the lockdowns and restrictions. She is worried about the future of her business and the children who missed out because the government decided that 10 children could attend a creative arts studio but it was too great a risk for 10 children to attend a dance studio. Pubs, clubs and cafes will not be able to return to a profitable position with the current density limits that are in place. Regional communities need certainty and they need transparency.

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