I wish to raise a matter for the attention of the Minister for Industry Support and Recovery, and the action I seek is details of support packages for business and workers due to the extraordinary demands created by the implementation of the latest Victorian border crossing permit directions (no. 26).
They can’t claim any federal or state support because you haven’t called it a lockdown, but for those on the border who are living and breathing that is exactly what it is.
The livelihoods of businesses, workers and even charities from both Albury and Wodonga have been severely damaged by what is effectively a lockdown by stealth.
Businesses have been forced to cut production, jobs have been lost while others have had to forgo major contracts for everything from asphalting to putting air conditioners into schools to NBN connections to garbage collection.
Businesses that have survived your four previous lockdowns are now on their knees.
The nonsensical six permitted reasons to cross the border, combined with the lazy and partisan politics that fail to identify that, as we stand here today, the nearest COVID threat to the border is not regional NSW but the northern suburbs of Melbourne—a partisan political filibustering that fails to understand or intentionally ignores the police operations that surround Sydney, the fact that there is random testing of people leaving that city and highway patrol cars with sophisticated software that picks up anyone from a hotspot suburb.
Instead you choose to dismantle the border bubble with these new directions just to prove a point, and industry, business and the people of the border have become expendable. They have become collateral damage.
They can’t claim any federal or state support because you haven’t called it a lockdown, but for those on the border that is exactly what it is.
And please don’t fall back on the line that there are exemptions and exceptions.
They are just smoke and mirrors with the mandatory 14-day isolation attached to any of these exemptions and exceptions, creating a border barricade.
If you are a business in Melbourne with specialist technicians, are you going to seek an exemption to fix the laser cutter at Steeltech Engineering in Albury when it means that the technician is then locked in their home for 14 days when they return to Melbourne? Of course not.
It means 15 jobs are under threat at that business alone—five of them are Victorians.
If you are a Wodonga business digging trenches for NBN connections in Wagga, would you send your people up there knowing that when they return they will be locked up for two weeks? If you are a Melbourne firm with set-to-install steel fabrication equipment on the border, will you send the construction team here when they too will be out of action for two weeks?
Will you compensate the New Life Chapel in Wodonga that has had to rent temporary premises in Albury twice a week for its cross-border congregation? Pastor Zoran Paunovich says this money should be spent on the community, not wasted on renting a room when he has multiple rooms in his own church but your rules don’t let his parishioners cross the river.
What are you going to do for the Craig Kitto at Murray Valley Pet Resort that has had to stand down three staff this week because your rules have effectively stopped the bulk of its trade and with no ‘official’ lockdown, at least at the moment, there is no support for the business or its staff?
I could go on and on and on.
This Labor government has, in the sneaky and underhanded manner that has become a hallmark of its management style, abrogated the responsibility to be upfront with the people of Victoria. Instead you have, through these rules, shown your ignorance of how border communities work. Worse, you have shifted the onus onto individual businesses that are hogtied by these restrictions that now force them to shed staff, let go of contracts and go to the wall.
Shame on you.
I say own up, front up and pay up.