Covid-19 Licensed Hospitality Fund

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (18:18): My adjournment this evening is for the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, the Honourable Melissa Horne, in the other house, and it relates to the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund for COVID-19. Now open for lunch from Wednesday through to Sunday, the Duck Inn at Willow Grove has an incredible menu with indoor and outdoor dining and takeaway options, and it is set in the most beautiful location. Scott Bradley has only been the proprietor for 12 months. He bought it just before COVID-19 reared its head last year. In fact he signed the deeds only a couple of months before, and in his own words, ‘It was not great timing’. It is certainly a great place for locals. The population around Willow Grove is about 1000 people, but other people come from Gippsland to visit and enjoy the food at the establishment. They have had significant curtailment of their income, as you can only imagine, significant loss and significant instability. They have pivoted and they have tried to keep their customers going in a variety of ways. Scott chose not to actually go with JobKeeper, and he also worked with his staff to keep them on at his own cost.

In October last year, through the help of his accountant, he applied for a Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund grant. This was put up by the Andrews government to support businesses through the impacts of COVID restrictions and to keep jobs in Victoria. It sounds all good in the fine print, but he actually applied for it, and the department website says the department will endeavour to notify all applicants of their outcomes within 10 business days. It has been 63 days since this gentleman applied for his business, the Duck Inn—63 days. Scott has made 22 phone calls to the Business Victoria hotline, and he is still waiting for the outcome of his request for funding.

During one of the telephone calls he was told by the department ‘It’s with the program owner’. This response seems to be a repetitive phrase and is not helping businesses like the Duck Inn at Willow Grove to receive financial assistance and it is not really supporting these people, as the fund is designed to do. Now, 63 days later a stressed businessman who is under financial pressure—and then to have another closure only last week—is absolutely at breaking point. I ask the minister to respond to Mr Bradley in earnest and expedite his application for the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund grant. Also I would like the minister to provide an apology to this gentleman, who has had to wait an enormous amount of time, so that he can at least feel like someone cares.