Ingham Daily Press

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Certainty critical for recovery

CERTAINTY for business and a willingness to listen has motivated Member for Hinchinbrook Nick Dametto to accept a meeting with the Hinchinbrook Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism to discuss a nationally consistent framework to manage COVID-19.

Snap lockdowns, unpredictable and ongoing restrictions in regional areas and uncertainty surrounding triggers and end points have devastated Queensland business owners and after more than a year – and with COVID-19 not going away for the foreseeable future – the Hinchinbrook Chamber of Commerce and CCIQ want to see “lessons learnt being applied” so that health can be managed effectively without destroying the livelihoods of Queenslanders.

Despite CCIQ proposing a framework that allows businesses to plan, and restrictions to be eased where it’s appropriate, Chamber President Rachael Coco said it was “frustrating and disheartening to learn that not one of the Ministers contacted, including Steven Miles, Yvette D’Ath, Sterling Hinchcliffe and Di Farmer, or the Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young and Small Business Commissioner Maree Adshead, have bothered to formally respond to recommendations”.

“Before Easter, there was so much uncertainty and chaos created with lockdowns and restrictions because the government used the media to provide updates – instead of their own websites – without any transparency surrounding their decisions” said Ms Coco.

“I’ve spoken to business owners who are confused – they’re worried that they might be misinterpreting directives and they’re struggling to keep up with changes and worst of all, they’re scared that they’ll get fined for non-compliance because other business owners have different interpretations and practices, it’s a minefield for businesses to manoeuvre through” she said.

“Clear communication is critical; businesses need certainty and transparency with a clear framework that outlines the state government response to localised outbreaks and aligns with principles in the Framework for National Reopening – it is unreasonable to expect businesses to operate without knowing what triggers a lockdown, when restrictions will be reviewed and what it takes to get them lifted.”

“Furthermore, restrictions seem to persist far longer than necessary, particularly for restaurants and cafes and other businesses outside South-East Queensland where there haven’t been any outbreaks or community transmissions.  These need to be lifted urgently so that these businesses can start to recover.”

With Australia’s international borders unlikely to reopen until 2022 Ms Coco said that certainty has become “even more critical” as small businesses navigate what has become the new norm and she is eager to discuss these challenges with Mr Dametto.

Member for Hinchinbrook Nick Dametto said businesses in his electorate and across the country had been “severely impacted” by successive lockdowns and restrictions.

“I understand managing the pandemic is a complex and fluid situation, which means it is difficult to set any plans in concrete on how to manage the virus. But as we are learning the characteristics of the virus, we should be able to come up with better communication and management methods,” Mr Dametto said.

“I look forward to sitting down and listening to the Chamber and CCIQ’s ideas and how they believe COVID-19 should be managed into the future.”

Townsville Chamber President Michele Falconieri has previously expressed that it would be helpful for businesses to have a “clear roadmap of what happens if there is a set number of cases identified or a new variant discovered within a hotspot” so that businesses can plan and prepare rather than be reactive.

“We all know how water restriction levels work and there are set rules that apply when the dam is at certain levels” said Mr Falconieri.

“If there was a similar type of system for COVID restrictions that are to be implemented that are known and understood by the business community, this would be helpful so each business can assess and plan how best to minimise the risk for their particular business and be prepared for the different types of restrictions that might be implemented if there is a case in their area” he said.

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