Although Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a likely 2 November reopening date for stores and hospitality venues, with an immediate reopening for hairdressers, businesses are disappointed by the delay. But so is the federal government, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg telling Channel 9 on Monday morning that Victorian leaders are guilty of “callous indifference” over job losses and plight of small business.
While Premier Andrews did lift some restrictions, he announced on Sunday that retail, hospitality and personal care services will have to wait “just a bit longer”.
“We need to wait just a bit longer — until 11.59pm on 1 November — to take the rest of the third step that will see retail, hospitality and personal care services open again,” Mr Andrews said.
“This is a timeline that is based on the current advice of our public health team.”
But many disagree with the Premier’s assessment, with hospitality and small-business leaders referring to the delay as “inexplicable and unacceptable”.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott warned shortly after Andrews’ announcement that small businesses are hanging on by a day and desperately need to get on with their lives.
“Adopting a wait-and-see approach to easing restrictions is not an answer for people who face a bleak Christmas and businesses that are trying to get back up and running,” she said.
“There is no sound reason to continue the restrictions on business, especially with case numbers clearly on a downward trajectory.
“People desperately need the ability now to get on with their lives and businesses.”
She accused the government of double standards, noting that there’s no point in having a 25km travel zone if nothing is open.
“For businesses, it is now a day-to-day proposition, not a week-to-week one, whether they remain viable or close their doors forever,” Ms Westacott said.
“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.”
She expressed frustration with the state government’s refusal to consult with business.
“We also remain disappointed that the Victorian government is yet to consult with business on how we can work together to reopen the economy faster,” she said.
“Across the rest of the country, business is helping drive practical solutions, such as enhanced digital tracking and tracing, to keep workers and customers safe.”
Mr Frydenberg agreed, reiterating earlier calls for the Andrews government to follow Gladys Berejiklian’s lead.
“Why isn’t Victoria following the course set by NSW who have set the gold standard with respect to contact testing and tracing and with respect to getting about allowing people to go back to work?” the Treasurer said.
Calling the situation in Victoria “tragic”, Mr Frydenberg said half a million people are effectively now unemployed.
“Now, that is unacceptable given that there has been the success and the progress in bringing down the number of daily cases,” he said.
But in what has become a political showdown, Dan Andrews responded to the Treasurer on Monday with the words: “It’s all about the politics with this bloke, isn’t it?
“All he does is play politics, every day, and I just don’t think that is fair.”
Alluding to the fact that he is sticking to his plan, the Premier added: “I think Victorians are sick of it. Victorians want their family protected, they wanted their health issues dealt with so we can open up.”