The owner of recently collapsed camping supplies retailer Aussie Disposals has slammed the Victorian government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying tough lockdown measures and poorly formed payroll tax relief have helped send Aussie-owned SMEs to the wall.
Mark Purvis placed his 58-year-old family-owned retailer into voluntary administration on Wednesday after copping a one-two punch from the bushfire crisis and the coronavirus outbreak.
It comes as state and territory officials across the country scramble to contain the coronavirus, shutting down industries and restricting social movements en masse while outlaying unprecedented stimulus measures to prop up the economy.
But Purvis tells SmartCompany the Andrews government has done businesses like his no favours in recent weeks.
“It’s a pretty contentious issue, but I’ve been very disappointed,” Purvis says of Victoria’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
“They’ve banned people from grabbing a fishing rod, standing on a rock and throwing a line in.
“But they’re letting people crawl all over each other in South Melbourne markets.”
The Victorian and NSW governments have adopted particularly tough measures in a bid to curb the outbreak in recent weeks, enforcing unprecedented ‘stage three’ social lockdowns.
Residents have been told not to leave their homes except for essential needs and Victoria Police have reportedly been handing out fines to those out in public spaces without good reasons.
The resulting collapse in recreational travel and activities has seen business all but dry up for retailers such as Aussie Disposals, and Purvis believes restrictions on individual liberties have gone too far.
“It just doesn’t make sense at all, social distancing is really important in this time … [but] they’ve absolutely gone too far.
“Especially in a solo sense, whether it’s solo or with your partner, there are certain activities you should be able to do that help with mental and physical health.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has routinely defended the state’s response to the virus in recent weeks, and has been unapologetic about shutting down large parts of the economy to protect public health.
“We can’t have people out socialising, gathering as if this [coronavirus] wasn’t happening,” Andrews told reporters late last month.
“We’ve got to protect the health system, we’ve got to save lives, we’ve got to protect jobs as well.”
But Purvis says even the state government’s efforts to support businesses have come up short, taking aim at payroll tax relief measures.
Andrews waived payroll tax for the 2019-2020 financial year for SMEs across the state last month and opened up deferrals for the first quarter of the 2020-21 financial year.
But firms with annual taxable wages over $3 million aren’t eligible, even if they’re turnover is below $50 million a year, classifying them as an SME.
“We’re trying to employ more people, not less, and yet we’ve been penalised for that,” Purvis says.
“We’re a wholly Australian family-owned business and there’s not a lot of our ilk left anymore, especially in retail.
“You’d expect banks, creditors and the government to do everything they can to support businesses like ours.”
Purvis hopes to maintain ownership of Aussie Disposals and is pursuing plans to close 11 of the company’s 36 stores in the coming months in an attempt to downsize the operation to a profitable position.