Business groups unite to call on Victorian government to kickstart the state’s economy

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) and the Council Of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) have come together to call on the Victorian government to implement a plan to open up the state’s economy, citing the economic and social impact on the ongoing lockdown laws.

“Extreme lockdowns and border closures are papering over the urgent need for a workable plan to live safely with this virus,’’ Business Council of Australia chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, said.

“We all recognise that in the long run there can be no trade-off between health, social and economic recovery, but our strategy must deliver on all fronts, or it will fail. Victoria needs to lead and bring forward its timetable to open up so people can get on with their lives and learn to live safely side-by-side with the virus.”

Westacott urged the Andrews government to declare a timetable – with an immediate relaxation of some restrictions – so that businesses can plan to reopen, saying that it’s not viable for Victoria to remain mothballed indefinitely and cut off from the rest of the country.

A tale of two states

“NSW’s different approach to managing and living alongside the virus has balanced the health and economic imperatives,’ Westacott said. “This means schools are open so kids can continue their education and their parents can work, small businesses can make plans for the busy Christmas period and people can visit their family and friends.

“With Victorian infection numbers stabilising to a level similar to NSW, people are entitled to ask, ‘why isn’t Victoria doing the same?’. Every day of delay and ongoing restrictions only deepens the devastating social and economic harm Victorians are experiencing”, Westacott added. “The fallout in Victoria from the second wave has left it in a worse place than after the first wave. Today’s data show 120,000 Victorians have either lost a job or been stood down with no work since early July.’’

COSBOA chief executive officer Peter Strong said that measures developed by computer models do not take into account the human and economic impacts of prolonged restrictions.

“Delaying – instead of accelerating – plans to relax restrictions would further undermine public confidence,” Strong said. “We are calling on all states to publicly spell out robust plans for how they will manage this virus going forward while allowing people to get on with their lives.

A new way of working

“This means having secure hotel quarantine systems, adequate monitoring of self-isolation, effective and reliable digital tracking and tracing to contain outbreaks locally, and a proper and dignified system for people in aged care and vulnerable situations,’’ Strong said.

The BCA and COSBOA are adamant that the business community has COVID-safe plans in place and is ready and willing to work with the state governments to put in places that allow economic activity to resume while protecting the community.

“Lockdowns were necessary in the early stages of the virus because they gave us time to build capacity in our hospitals, stock up on vital health equipment such as masks and sanitiser, and put testing and contact tracing regimes in place,” Westacott said. “Now, they produce a false sense of security and a lack of preparedness to live side by side with the virus. Mental health, domestic violence and social issues in Victoria have risen steeply and some children haven’t been to school since March. This is especially acute for disadvantaged students without adequate access to technology.”

Christmas crucial to small businesses’ survival

Strong highlighted the need for the owners of small and family-owned businesses to plan for Christmas, as that is their busiest trading period of the year.

“They deserve to know now if they will be able to open up their doors and given time to stock up their inventory,” Strong said. “Failure to implement a staged reopening of the Victorian economy from this Sunday will result in many small and family businesses in Victoria being forced to close their doors permanently – even before the Christmas trading season begins.”