I am urging all federal, state and territory politicians to agree and together decide how to implement the roadmap to “COVID-19 normalcy”. 

We have the map, finally. The Doherty and Burnet Institutes have advised, and our Prime Minister set the scene. Why are we not all working together to achieve it?

When Australia first went into a nationwide lockdown in March 2020, the world looked on in awe as  we achieved zero locally acquired cases. Fast forward 18 months, and it seems Australia has been left behind with state enforced lockdowns, border closures and a snail-paced vaccine rollout. Further lockdowns and state border closures will continue to disrupt the Australian economy in unprecedented ways.

Let’s face it, the lockdowns are not working. Why are we one of the only first world countries still in lockdown? Why can we not learn from our overseas friends?

The feedback from our FBA members is that these lockdowns and border closures are not only crippling their family business financially, but also affecting the mental health of their families and employees.  For many businesses, it seems like a never-ending cycle of open one day, closed the next and it is becoming increasingly difficult to come full circle and open again. 

There are still so many factors that are unclear to many Australians. To achieve the goal of 80% double vaccinated Australians (approximately 5th November in Victoria), what happens then? Can an employer force staff to vaccinate? I think not. Can an employer refuse entry to their premises for staff and customers who are not vaccinated? Maybe. But will the receptionist or the salesperson be able to enforce this? Unlikely. How does the employer ensure a safe working environment? Will there be an orderly and complying public using their vaccination cards/passports? It does not look likely based on the last few weekend’s behaviour.

The Government needs to take a very strong hand here. We cannot wait months, or years, for the courts to decide what is right or wrong in order to implement the targets. We need formal direction and assurances that if we follow the rules we will be protected from any sort of litigation or harassment. We are dealing with a once in a lifetime (I hope) national emergency that needs to be handled accordingly. Please prescribe the rules.

Businesses need timely communication relating to closures and reopening before and after a lockdown. They need to know if/when they should purchase stock, employ staff and take bookings. 

Australian businesses simply cannot deal with this level of uncertainty. Father’s Day has been and gone. Christmas is around the corner. How many importers and wholesalers have already imported, manufactured, purchased and paid for their Christmas stock? If the country is not open for Christmas and seasonal sales this year, the result will be a financial catastrophe. 

The suggested date of 5th November for retail to open in Victoria is, I suggest, too late. The workaround of outdoor shopping in the meantime is hard to stomach given our variable weather that comes through at this time of year. For our members who sell clothing, electronics and other items that are meant to stay indoors, it is hard to see how this will help them. It is just another regulatory brick in the wall that hasn’t been considered properly. 

The logistics industries cannot cope with the current volume of traffic. Australia Post stopped collecting deliveries last week to try to catch up on their back log. Imagine when the late Christmas rush commences. Retail, hairdressing, beauty and personal care and hospitality need to open earlier. They cannot wait until 80% of the population is vaccinated. They need to open immediately, albeit with Covid safe rules.

We, as a Not for Profit Association, have no political affiliation. We are an organisation established 23 years ago to assist families in business. Family Businesses make up approximately 70% of all businesses and corporations in Australia and employ approximately 50% of the workforce. They are crying out to recommence trading.

Why did it take Victoria so long to develop a single QR code when other States already had them for months? Why is the roll out of the vaccines so slow, placing us well behind many overseas countries? Why are we competing with other Australian States rather than working as one united Australia?

My urgent request to the Australian Government and all State and Territory leaders is to get together and work out, as a priority, how to implement the roadmap in time to prevent a financial disaster and the associated issues that will flow from it.

Mark Kagan is national chairman for Family Business Australia.