The Victorian Government has today announced an extension to lockdown measures affecting Metropolitan Melbourne, with restrictions to continue until 11.59pm, Thursday June 10 before gradual further easing. The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has called for the return of a tailored federal support scheme with the extended lockdown in Melbourne set to cost more than $2 billion in lost retail trade.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra said given there have been 33 days of state-imposed lockdowns in Australia in the first half of 2021 alone, it’s clear that ongoing financial assistance is needed, starting with Victorian businesses.
“If this virus has taught us anything, it’s that our plans and progress can change very quickly with little notice,” Zahra said.
“A week ago, our economic recovery was on track – business confidence was at record highs and the Melbourne CBD was getting its mojo back. We were starting to think that the worst of COVID was behind us.
“Sadly, that’s not the case and our thoughts are with our Victorian friends, families and the small businesses who are battling through the current lockdown. We understand and respect the importance of these health imperatives, however it’s a bitter blow for the people of Victoria who’ve suffered more than most through this pandemic.”
“The State and Federal blame game doesn’t help anyone. There is room for improvement within the vaccine rollout and the Victorian contact tracing system, but the core issue is helping Victorians to navigate through this fresh crisis.
“While those issues are addressed, we need to work together and find a solution that supports people and businesses – and find a solution that gets our COVID recovery back on track.
Today’s announcement for an additional seven day lockdown for people in Metropolitan Melbourne, while restrictions are planned to ease in Regional Victoria subject to tracing and testing. Masks continue to be mandatory in all circumstances except within your home, unless an exemption applies.
QR Codes will also be expanded to be mandatory across the entire state for retail settings, including retailers such as supermarkets and shops.
Zahra continues, “Victoria can’t do this alone. The Federal Government has done a great job to keep businesses afloat through JobKeeper and we need them to step up to the plate again.
“We believe a reintroduction of a scheme like JobKeeper, which is targeted at those most in need, would be the simplest and easiest measure to implement, given the back-end systems are already known and worked well for a year. The scheme should be targeted – just for those negatively impacted by lockdowns.
“This isn’t just about Victoria. This is about other states and territories who might have to deal with state-imposed lockdowns and restrictions, should new cases emerge in the community. A scheme like JobKeeper should be a lifeline that can be activated when it’s needed.
“We welcome the extension of the Victorian Government’s businesses support grants, but more funding is desperately needed.
“This is also an ideal time for the Victorian Government to reconsider the tax increases it announced in the recent state budget. Applying a payroll tax surcharge on businesses will just place them under even more pressure and will put jobs at risk.”
The Victorian Government will double existing support payments for businesses affected by the extension of restrictions.
A new allocation of up to $209.3 million will flow to small and medium-sized businesses, taking the total support package to $460 million.