While opening up may make some people nervous, the reality is we are in a crisis that is impacting every Victorian business. We need to prepare ourselves to open. The National Plan to Transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response states that governments will continue to prioritise the suppression of community transmission until we get to 70 per cent and then 80 per cent COVID-19 vaccination rates.
As we charge towards that 70 per cent, our business community deserves to know what that will mean for them - without doubt and with absolute clarity. I’m a result-orientated leader, so it’s targets that drive me. I want to see more targets beyond the 70 and 80 per cent to encourage more of us to get the vaccine. I know the AFL Grand Final will likely be moved for a second year, but there is still an opportunity for vaccinated people to enjoy Spring Racing at the track, or the Ashes Boxing Day Test come Christmas time. Even more importantly, there must be a target short of 70 per cent that enables our kids to head back to school, TAFE and university.
It is great to see that from 7am today, anyone aged 16-59 can get the Pfizer vaccine at state-run vaccine centres. The end is in sight, and we can all help to get to that light on the hill. Please, make immediate plans to get vaccinated if you’re not already and let’s empower all Victorians to hit the targets that will let us leave lockdowns in the rear-view mirror. Importantly, get tested as soon as you have symptoms as well. Please just act quickly and ask your teams to do the same.
We’ve got drive-through centres but why not expend the system further? Let’s be bold and move any impediments that might be in the way of people wanting to get vaccinated. It’s time to get 24-hour vaccination centres operating, and how about a Victoria Vaccination Month to match NSW’s five million doses campaign? Make no mistake, this IS a race, and we are a competitive bunch!
I have been continuing to call for better guidance and clarity on mandatory vaccinations in the workplace and all the associated issues. I met with some members last week on this topic and will again this week and next to understand the issues. The Victorian Chamber has provided a free guide for employers in partnership with the Australian Chamber of Commerce (ACCI) to help navigate the complexities and legalities of COVID-19 vaccination policies in the workplace. There are also resources and information on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
Saturday was not a good day when Regional Victoria went back in lockdown with only two hours’ notice, which is unacceptable. On top of having to shut, I know a lot of regional businesses were already doing it tough due to a lack of visitation from metropolitan areas. There are places in our state that have zero virus but are subject to the same shutdown direction. Surely by now the State Government can find more nuanced ways to shutdown given how long we have been doing this. While I know many of you will receive and be grateful for financial support, the payments will never replace lost revenue. I know your business really wants to trade, but hopefully the support is enough to get you through the next two weeks.
If you haven’t been able to receive support payments to this point, I encourage you to check your eligibility for the $252 million Small Business COVID Hardship Fund. The Victorian Chamber was successful in securing this fund directly off the back of member feedback that the BCAP eligibility criteria was too narrow, and businesses were slipping through the cracks.
I had a great discussion with Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass yesterday, who assured me that her office stands ready to assist any members experiencing difficulty with delays in processing applications, inconsistent information and advice and issues relating to assessments and reassessments of Lockdown Four grants. Here is the link to the Ombudsman’s online complaint form.
I’d also like to invite you all to join me for a ‘Town Hall’ style Zoom meeting between 1pm and 3pm this Friday to discuss issues impacting you, and to give our members the chance to ask questions. Please check your Chamber News email for a link to register and I look forward to seeing you there. It will be an open forum and you can ask questions, give me some feedback, request assistance or give some ideas.
I spoke to some friends over the weekend who told me they were struggling mentally, or they have children who are. This pandemic is cutting us in so many ways. But your health - physical and mental - is too important to ignore. The same is true of your children. If you need help, please get it. If you know me, please reach out, as I will do what I can to help.
The next two weeks will continue to be tough. There will be frustrations there will be stress. There will be many juggling home schooling and child-care with work. Be kind to each other, exercise patience and provide support where you can.
Stay safe and enjoy the week as best you can.
P.S. Domain Administration (auDA) has announced the launch of direct registration of Australian domain names on 24 March 2022. This means Australians will be able to apply for a .au domain name such as VictorianChamber.au. See the auDA website for more information.