I have a suggestion for Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, acting Premier James Merlino and the senior members of their government: take this long weekend to truly listen to what the small businesses across their state are saying.
Victorian small businesses are hurting and it is starting to feel like the state government is either unaware, or worse, doesn’t care.
While millions have been announced in government support for businesses affected by the current coronavirus restrictions in the state, it took days for the government to announce the payments when the state was plunged back into lockdown, and it is now clear many businesses will not be eligible.
This includes those that have stood down staff because they haven’t been able to trade, as well as thousands of very small businesses that are not currently registered for GST.
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Some of these businesses have been sharing their experiences in the comments section on this SmartCompany article, while 7000 people have signed an online petition urging the government to pay attention.
We are also hearing about business owners who are still waiting for support payments they are eligible for and should have received months ago.
These businesses may be small, but their ambitions, and potential to grow, are not. They have been to hell and back over the past 15 months, but their passion for building businesses that support their own families, their staff and their communities remain.
Businesses like Atiyah, a zero-carbon, 100% renewable street food kitchen at Melbourne’s iconic Federation Square precinct, are exactly the kind the government should be supporting right now and into the future. And yet these businesses feel like they have fallen through the cracks.
And then there are reports the government failed to have legislation ready to go to end this latest lockdown earlier, despite the state having been in this position before, more than once.
It is not difficult to foresee the immense effects a lockdown has on the small business community, and these are only exacerbated the longer businesses have to wait to come out of lockdown.
As snap lockdowns continue to loom as a possibility across the country, a similar situation could play out in other states if our politicians and policymakers don’t prioritise small businesses.
Some will argue the Victorian government is simply doing what governments do: maximising their chances of getting reelected with policies that are popular in the electorate.
If that’s the case, the government would do well to remember small business owners are voters too.