[VIDEO] Ticker News

The past 12 months have been a hard slog, to say the least for many small business owners but there is now light at the end of the tunnel for people to be able to keep well and buy local with the vaccination rollout.

Bill Lang joined Adrian Franklin from Ticker News to discuss the vaccination rollout, compensation for Victorian small businesses and reviving the city of Melbourne.

You can watch the segment via the following YouTube video or read the highlights of the transcript below.

COVID Vaccine rollout

Adrian Franklin (Ticker News)
This week, we started vaccinations in Australia, of course, how are small business owners feeling about this exactly.

Bill Lang (Small Business Australia)
It’s very positive news for all small businesses. As you know at Small Business Australia and Ticker has been a key foundation partner in this, we’ve been encouraging everyone to do the things to keep well, and of course to buy local from local small businesses. Now we can add one more thing to the keeping well, mantra. So in addition to keeping your hands clean, give me a bit of space, you know, wearing your mask, if you can’t keep a bit of space, be vaccinated. We could well see, in the near future, the need for effectively a vaccination passport, we’re already seeing that happening in countries like Israel. So it’s going to be a great thing for people to be vaccinated, and that is really having a positive impact on the mindsets of small business people.

Too little, too late – Compensation for Victorian businesses

Adrian Franklin
The Victorian Government, meanwhile, has announced compensation packages for affected Victorian small businesses. Tell us more about this. Is it big enough and what our business is saying?

Bill Lang
There are 600,000 small businesses in the state of Victoria, and all of them were impacted by the Valentine’s Day lockdown which happened. Some had a positive impact, a few more things ordered online. But the overwhelming majority, a big negative impact on the revenue, many in particular sectors hospitality, florists, weddings, major events. You know they’d already paid money out in terms of fresh things like fresh produce and other supplies. In addition, you know, they’re having to pay wages, they’re still paying rent. So what the Victorian Government announced has come very late and at best, it will probably cover a maximum of 50,000 businesses, as opposed to a few 100,000. And it looks like it’ll be somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000 if you can actually get your hands on it. So I look, you know, every dollar counts. But there are many small businesses in those particular sectors that are 10s of 1000s of dollars out of pocket. And, you know, we had the Valentine’s Day lockdown came from nowhere, no sort of early warning signals. This, this feels to most small business owners, a bit like someone’s gone and bought a rose a week after Valentine’s Day. So it’s a bit style. You put it in the vase, and after sort of one day, it’s wilted. It’s too little, too late.

Moomba and the City of Melbourne

Adrian Franklin
Let’s look at Moomba. So you mentioned the Valentine’s Day lockdown there, Moomba was cancelled. You know, it was a really short, sharp lockdown. Do you think that was a wise move to make that decision?

Bill Lang
I think the City of Melbourne have already admitted that they made a mistake. You know, there must have been conversations take place between the state government and the city of Melbourne to quickly get that thing going. Or be it, you know, under whatever the latest version of COVID safety will be for events. But you’ve got to think about you got to sort of feel a little bit sorry for local government to the extent that we in small business, we don’t know what’s coming from the government, it appears that local government doesn’t know.

And there are examples around the Mornington Peninsula in the state of Victoria of caravan parks initially being not going to be open over the summer period. And the local governments down there needing to change it pretty quickly. It appears that there’s still not a lot of coordination, full and frank sort of conversations taking place between the government and local government, but look, the City of Melbourne at the same time, it’s not doing yourself any favours in terms of getting people back into the city and encouraging them. There’s a street for your viewers called Exhibition Street that now has bike lines running down each side, so vans that in the past would deliver food to the local hospitality-related businesses have now got to park around the corner. If you sort of cross the street at anywhere except the crossing lights, you’ve got the risk of being hit by a bike and a whole bunch of car parking is being taken out. So I think we’re going to get some consistency from the City of Melbourne around if it really wants people back in the city, which I’m sure it does. There are certain things it needs to be doing to enable that to make it easier to send the signal that we do want you back.

Melbourne CBD out of step with other capital cities

Adrian Franklin
Victoria is the only state with upper limits in terms of people, workers who can go back returning to work does Small Business Australia support that approach?

Bill Lang
What we want to see is a minimum percentage back that’s the only state that’s got those sorts of limitations. The biggest employer is the Victorian Government in the city and the City of Melbourne. We need to see them getting the majority of their people back into their offices to demonstrate leadership.