Bath goes into bat for Gippsland’s small businesses

The Andrews Government’s small business support program is plagued by botched bureaucracy and technicalities, leaving Gippsland businesses short changed.

This week in state parliament, The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region demanded the Andrews Government change the ANZSIC code system it is using to exclude struggling small businesses from support programs.

Ms Bath 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 decimated by more than 70 per cent because of Labor’s lockdowns,” Ms Bath said.

“Take away food outlets in shopping centres were eligible for support in 2020. This year they no longer qualify because the Andrews Government removed them from the list.”

Ms Bath said 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.”

Ms Bath said other business were unable to access support because the government refused to fix administrative processes.

“Business Victoria wrongly categorised another local hospitality business, leaving the owner short changed to the tune of $30,000 – money the business owner desperately needs to keep going and survive the pandemic,” said Ms Bath.

“Astoundingly, when it was raised with the government, Business Victoria told the proprietor that they could see his application, but they could not say when or even if it would be rectified.”

Ms Bath said despite the Premier’s announcement that restrictions would ease in regional Victoria on Friday, hospitality could only serve 10 seated patrons indoors.

“Many have told me that these limits are simply not sustainable,” Ms Bath said.

“Gippsland 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.”