5 October 2020
Tim Quilty, Member for Northern Victoria, joins (from left) Neil Thomas, owner of the Great Aussie Beer Shed, Mark Galea, joint owner of Echuca’s National Holden Museum with Tony Galea, to discuss the impact of coronavirus restrictions on their businesses.
Tim Quilty visits Echuca businesses to hear how they have endured lockdown challenges
Liberal Democrats Member for Northern Victoria Tim Quilty has urged governments on both sides of the border to lift all restrictions and get regional Victoria back on its feet.
Mr Quilty met business owners in Echuca on Friday and heard their accounts of struggling through Victorian restrictions and NSW border controls.
“Neil Thomas, owner of the Great Aussie Beer Shed, Tony Galea, joint owner of the National Holden Museum with Mark Galea, shared their experiences of what they have had to endure since March and their resilience has seen them through some incredibly tough times,” Mr Quilty said.
“While I applaud their courage, I am bitterly disappointed that they have had to fight for survival thanks to government decisions – despite the loosening of restrictions for outdoor venues, indoor venues must remain closed.
“It’s way past time these ridiculous restrictions were lifted in regional Victoria and on the border completely so that we can all start returning to a normal life.”
While Mr Quilty acknowledges the value of containing the virus, he says the methods employed by all governments have been excessive and suffocating.
“The coronavirus problem has been allowed to evolve into something far more damaging to communities, families and businesses than it needed to be,” Mr Quilty said.
“Governments on both sides of the border should have trodden far more carefully, considered the fall-out of their decisions, and listened to a much broader range of experts than the ones under their control.
“We are hundreds of kilometres from any COVID-19 hotspots and yet here we are wearing masks and still enduring restrictions on our daily lives.
“Here we have businesses that have COVID-safe plans not being allowed to open in places that have never had the virus.
“I think Daniel Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian owe business owners a massive apology for needlessly harming their businesses and their home towns.”
Neil Thomas said he is struggling to understand why other businesses have been allowed to open up but he is not.
“I’m semi-retired so I only open my place at weekends and during school holidays, or by appointment, but we have a function centre where we do birthdays, weddings, engagements and Christmas parties, and we have lost every single booking from March through to now,” Mr Thomas said.
“I fully understand the crisis, but in the current situation there have been exemptions for other businesses, the town is vibrant, and everything is open except for us, gymnasiums and museums.
“We can comply with spacing requirements, our phone is running hot every day, and yet we are not allowed to open. If everything else was shut I’d understand, but when everything else is open, it’s really tough for us sitting here saying ‘what about me?’.”
Tony Galea said that a promising start to the year turned into a period which has pushed them close to breaking point.
“Once Holden announced they were closing, we got so busy, we were going great guns – then this all kicked in,” he said.
“All our bookings were cancelled, even a couple from early next year… we’ve had people visit who couldn’t understand why we are closed.
“This is our income, we have rates and bills to pay … we are trying very hard to keep our head above water but we can’t keep going indefinitely.”
Business partner Mark Galea said they had been carefully complying with the previous restrictions.
“That worked, people were happy to wait to be allowed to come in – not one person got upset,” he said.
“This car display area is huge, and having a maximum of 20 people in here it’s very easy to keep them separated to comply with the rules.”
Mr Quilty also visited Rohan Burgess, managing director of Murray River Paddle Steamers, which has only been able to get back to operation following a NSW Government decision to enable Victorians to go onto the Murray River, technically part of NSW.
Mr Burgess is cynical of the government restrictions.
“Regional Victoria is down to .2 at the moment – the crossing thing is complete bull, they should’ve put the border crossing on the outskirts of towns,” Mr Burgess said.
“We were pleading to be allowed back on the river – it’s not as if somebody was going to jump in a tinny and scurry off to Bathurst.
“This is the absurdity of it, and it’s hurt a lot of businesses. The river thing didn’t need to happen.”
For more information, contact Graham Springett | 0408 208819