Ai Group Victorian head Tim Piper said proper consultation will help provide best outcomes for businesses, ensure restrictions are as flexible as possible and prevent illogical application of rules.
“The health and wellbeing of our workforce and our community is the highest priority and businesses will be proactive and will comply with COVID regulations, helping workers and customers function in a COVID-safe manner and in a safe environment,” Mr Piper said.
“We need an approach that shuts down those areas where there are real issues while commercial operations are maintained to the greatest extent possible.”
Mr Piper said there is a good framework in place, and “no need to reinvent the wheel”, but some further considerations are necessary.
“Measures that were previously in place in Victoria were well understood and creating new measures such as the problematic mask rule for manufacturing workers will lead to confusion and lack of compliance,” he said.
“With no JobKeeper support available, the lockdown will have a major impact on businesses of all sizes. It was very disappointing that no support measures for business were announced today which reinforces the view of Victorian businesses that they are not being treated as a priority and some have suggested they are an after-thought in dealing with COVID.”
Mr Piper stressed the potential longer-term consequences have to be factored in and support provided in the areas of most need.
“Victoria is already losing economically as businesses diversify their risk away from the state. We are ready to work closely with government to develop processes that enable businesses to remain open and that limit the economic impacts on the state,” Mr Piper said.
Meanwhile, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) reiterated what a devastating blow the latest lockdown in Victoria is for retailers as well as consumer and business confidence.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra said, in real terms, it is set to cost over a billion dollars in lost retail trade, on top of the financial suffering already endured.
“We support the Victorian government in their response to keep the community safe, but we can’t ignore the significant impact this lockdown will have on retailers, the Melbourne CBD and small businesses in particular,” Mr Zahra said.
“Victorians have been to hell and back over the past year or so, and just when we thought the worst of COVID was behind us, it’s reared its head again mid-year.
“Businesses no longer have JobKeeper support payments available to them and Victorian small businesses in particular will be under significant stress — this is a huge blow to their confidence.”
Mr Zahra said it is not just a financial cost, but a social one as well.
“This lockdown will have an enormous impact on people’s health and wellbeing and will shatter fragile confidence levels for the second half of the year. This will also set back the valiant efforts of state and local government to restore confidence and foot traffic within Melbourne’s hard-hit CBD,” Mr Zahra continued.
Consumers are being encouraged to keep shopping, and continue to support retailers, despite the lockdown.
“Online, click and collect and home delivery is still available in Victoria and we encourage people to use those options for getting the goods and services they need,” Mr Zahra said.
“Most retailers have an online sales platform, so if there’s items you would normally buy in store, check out the online purchase, collection and delivery options they might have.”