Vic business groups demand lockdown compo

·3-min read

Victoria's latest lockdown is expected to leave businesses a further $1 billion in the red, with industry groups and the opposition demanding immediate state government support.

Business, tourism and event groups are clamouring for compensation, as Victoria prepares to endure its fourth lockdown in 15 months.

The seven-day shutdown, to begin from just before midnight on Thursday, will mean the closure of all non-essential retail across the state.

Gyms, hairdressers, community facilities and entertainment venues will once again shut their doors, while some retail stores can operate under 'click and collect' rules.

With the winding back of JobKeeper and rent relief, industry groups predict the shutdown will hit every bit as hard as Victoria's snap five-day lockdown in February.

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates that cost businesses in the vicinity of $1 billion, and expects to wear the same losses again.

"This lockdown will break some businesses, no doubt about it. So many were just hanging on by a thread and that thread has now been severed," VCCI chief executive Paul Guerra said.

Mr Guerra said the losses would bleed into jobs, confidence and reputation, and questioned why Victoria has borne the brunt of lockdowns.

"We've had months to get this right and Victorian businesses are once again paying the price. The Victorian business community is tired of the excuses," he said.

While supportive of protecting the community, Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said retail trade would be left more than $1 billion out of pocket.

"Victorians have been to hell and back over the past year or so, and just when we thought the worst of COVID was behind us, it's reared its head again mid-year," he said.

"This will also set back the valiant efforts of state and local government to restore confidence and foot traffic within Melbourne's hard-hit CBD."

The Chapel Street Precinct and Australian Industry Group expressed their disappointment an urgent support package was not announced alongside the "circuit breaker" lockdown.

"(It) reinforces the view of Victorian businesses that they are an after-thought in dealing with COVID," Ai Group state head Tim Piper said.

Acting Premier James Merlino acknowledged the cost of the lockdown to businesses and event organisers, flagging support announcements "in coming days".

But Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said small businesses could not afford to wait.

"They copped it last year, they copped it on Valentine's Day and now they're copping it again," he told reporters on Thursday.

"Small business doesn't have the capacity of big business to just take a seven-day holiday like this."

Melbourne's highly anticipated RISING Festival has cancelled all events over the next seven days, while statewide concerts will also not go ahead.

Save Victorian Events said the latest lockdown demonstrated the need for government-backed "COVID cancel" event insurance.

"We desperately need direct financial support to event industry businesses so they can survive through what was already going to be a difficult and quiet winter," a spokesman said.

Likewise, Victoria's Tourism Industry Council said the future of Australia's $150 billion tourism industry was also on the line if the state and federal government could not agree to a purpose-built quarantine solution.

"The bottom line is that our current systems are simply not coping," VTIC boss Felicia Mariani said.

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