Member for Murray Plains and The Nationals Victorian leader Peter Walsh has taken the plight of regional Victoria’s health and fitness industry to Parliament.
Mr Walsh said at a time when regional Victoria looks set to restart its economy, the jobs – and futures – of more than 40,000 have been left hanging in the wind because the Andrews Labor government “still hasn’t grasped what life means in regional Victoria”.
He told Parliament this week he would have thought one of the priorities of eased restrictions across regional Victoria would have been opportunities to help boost the health and wellbeing of a population living in limbo for months.
“We all hope COVID-19 is finally on the run but its legacy of mental health issues remains an unknown, and the pressures still to come from the economic fallout, so getting people physically engaged would seem an irreplaceable option for the first weeks and months of ‘normality’,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Nationals are calling on the Andrews Labor government to open the gyms and fitness centres immediately,” he said.
“Daniel Andrews has already dug a deep hole for Victoria and now he wants to continue burying local business.”
Campaspe region fitness guru Russell Jarrett agreed but said the health and fitness industry has been banging its head against closed ministry doors for weeks without response.
And despite all evidence to the contrary, Mr Jarrett said the Andrews Labor Government was refusing to let gyms and fitness centres reopen – except for a minimal number of outdoor participants.
How safe are these facilities – Mr Jarratt said there have been more than seven million visits to centres in NSW in the eight weeks since that state reopened and not one case of transmission.
“The industry has been operating under the NSW ‘gold standard’ of capacity limits, member attendance scheduled, gold standard hygiene processes, bulletproof record keeping and contract tracing ability – the same service we would be offering in our region,” he said.
“There is simply no data anywhere in the country, or the world, to support a high-risk categorisation.
Mr Jarrett said Fitness Australia engaged with the Government Industry Advisory Group in discussions centred on the successful Queensland model, which has been acknowledged as the gold standard.
But added the Andrews government is not accepting any of it so fitness centres across regional Victoria remain closed.
“The industry is now seeking urgent meetings with the Health Department so those 40,000 health and fitness professionals can get back to work to help restore the mental and physical health of Victorians; a discussion which must include VIC ACTIVE, which represents 400 facilities across the state,” he said.