Grievance Debate - Restrictions on Mount Gambier Businesses Covid-19

Tuesday December 01, 2020

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (17:00): I rise to raise the concerns of many in my business community who are, quite frankly, devasted by the actions of the Liberal government. After the statewide lockdown, things did not go back to the previous conditions that were imposed beforehand, and I have businesses on the brink of going broke due to restrictions by stealth that have come in since lockdown.

You have to understand that Mount Gambier is 450 kilometres away from Parafield, where the cluster was, yet my business community has had imposed a one person per four square metre restriction and venue caps. For our hospitality and restaurant sector, this has led to a devastating cascading effect, where bookings have been cancelled, and businesses are electing to have their break-up Christmas shows at different venues—their own work venues, but not in the hospitality sector—because they cannot take the risk that on 14 December things are going to go back to the one person per two square metre ruling.

Even Dan Andrews saw the difference in Victoria between regional Victoria and metro areas of that state, yet this government has imposed the same restrictions for the COVID-19 cluster on the Mount Gambier business community. I fear that we cannot delay in making a decision that, if this one person per four square metres is not immediately overturned, we are going to see businesses particularly in the hospitality and restaurant sector of the Limestone Coast not being able to survive past Christmas. There is no guarantee that 14 December is going to be the date when things return to the one person per two square metres.

I have spoken to the AHA, which is very disappointed that these conditions have been imposed. If we do not something immediately, and I mean today or tomorrow, we are going to see that 14 December is too late for the hospitality and business sector of my region—places like the Treehouse Adventure Centre, the Blue Lake Golf Links, the South Aussie Hotel, The Barn Steakhouse. I can go on and on naming businesses that have contacted my office very worried that they will not survive this Christmas period.

If the government do not understand this, they need to get out and talk to some of these businesses. They need to understand that they are not on JobKeeper, that they are suffering, that their people are not employed. There is no safety net for them. They are hurting. If they do not make this change, I tell you what—this government is going to have hell to pay come the next election because businesses will go under.

I received a letter from David, who has the treehouse play cafe and who is not on JobKeeper because, when they came back into operation they met the threshold that removed them from JobKeeper. Since the lockdown, they have been unable to open. He was sitting on his computer last night wondering whether on 1 December he is able to open his Treehouse Adventure Centre or his tenpin bowling centre. He employs 20 staff, and at 9.30 last night he finally gets an email from SAPOL saying, 'You cannot open.'

His staff are facing a Christmas without employment, and if the attitude is, 'Oh, they can go on JobSeeker,' that is not a government leading this state. This government has to give very clear advice. It has to pressure this Transition Committee to get to the one per two square metres to give these businesses a chance to survive over the Christmas period because that is when you make your money in hospitality and entertainment.

The rest of the time in Mount Gambier the weather is not as favourable for making money in the hospitality sector. You make money over the three-month period. For the other nine months, you break even, or in some months you make a loss. If this is taken away from them, I am very fearful of what is going to happen to my hospitality and restaurant sector in Mount Gambier. I implore the Transition Committee to take this seriously. Get back to one per two square metres.