Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, said the Andrews Labor government’s small business support program has been plagued by botched bureaucracy and technicalities, leaving businesses across his electorate short changed.
Mr Walsh said this week in state parliament, The Nationals demanded the Andrews Government change the ANZSIC code system it is using to exclude struggling small businesses from support programs.
He said the state government had rejected local small businesses for support by removing a number of ANZSIC codes from the list of eligible businesses.
“Many of these businesses have seen their turnover gutted by more than 70 per cent because of Labor’s lockdowns,” Mr Walsh said.
“Takeaway food outlets in shopping centres were eligible for support in 2020. This year they no longer qualify because the Andrews Government simply removed them from the list,” he said.
“I am in no doubt the Andrews Government had deliberately narrowed its business support program to avoid paying small business grants.
“Labor’s argument that businesses in food courts aren’t eligible for assistance because they are legally able to trade is ridiculous. Foot traffic is almost non-existent and for many businesses, it costs more to open, pay wages and throw food out, than to close.
“The easing of restrictions will change very little for these businesses – tables and chairs remain off limits and most people are working from home.”
Mr Walsh said other businesses were unable to access support because the government refused to fix administrative processes.
He said in just one example; Business Victoria wrongly categorised a small regional hospitality business, leaving the owner short-changed to the tune of $30,000 – money the business owner desperately needed to keep going and survive the pandemic.
“Astoundingly, when it was raised with the government, Business Victoria told the proprietor it could see his application; but could not say when or even if it would be rectified.”
Mr Walsh said despite the Premier’s announcement restrictions would ease in regional Victoria from tomorrow, hospitality could only serve 10 seated patrons indoors.
“Many have told me that these limits are simply not sustainable,” he added.
“Regional Victorian small business owners are seriously hurting and are understandably distressed about their future and that of their staff.
“Labor needs to give our struggling hospitality businesses some hope by giving us a plan to properly reopen.”