As Victoria's months ahead come into focus, these issues could be game changers

As Victorians anticipate a state government announcement about how the next weeks and months will look, individuals, business owners and industry leaders are hoping their concerns will be factored into the plan.

Premier Daniel Andrews has repeatedly emphasised that the state’s roadmap out of lockdown will closely align with the National Plan, which centres around two key milestones — when 70 per cent and 80 per cent of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. 

The roadmap, to be released on Sunday, will outline “what the rest of September, October and November looks like, and indeed, beyond that”.

“It won’t answer every question and it won’t necessarily provide every single rule change for months and months and months,” Mr Andrews said.

“It’ll be a meaningful document and it’ll give people a really clear sense of what we’re working towards.”

Concern about industrial manslaughter laws

While individual sectors have a long list of demands from the roadmap, there is particular concern about the risk of industrial manslaughter laws being used if a worker catches COVID-19 at work and subsequently dies.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said members were very concerned about their potential liability.

“So imagine a scenario where somebody comes into the workplace with COVID and passes it on to someone else in the workplace, that person unfortunately goes to the hospital and passes on,” he said.

“Now, is the employer and the directors of the company then responsible under the context of industrial manslaughter laws?

“This is the biggest issue that employers are going to face.”

He said the best solution would be for government, through public health orders, to mandate what level of vaccination would be required for sectors, giving businesses protection from the liability of unvaccinated staff.

“That will give the business the confidence that it needs to say, ‘Actually, we only need double-vaccinated people in here. We can’t have people that aren’t vaccinated in,'” he said.

Call for international, state borders to reopen

Melbourne Airport is urging the state government to reopen borders for interstate and international travel once Victoria hits its 80 per cent target.

August was the worst month for passengers through Tullamarine this year, with just 73,000 people. It normally services 100,000 people a day.

On one day this week just 700 passengers came through the terminals.

“When we’re fully up and running in a pre-COVID world, we had 20,000 employees at the airport so obviously our suppliers our retailers our transport operators have been hit hard — this entire industry has been devastated,” head of aviation Lorie Argus said.

“So we’re really hopeful that once we’re open, we’re getting all of those jobs back.”

Ms Argus said certainty from the government would be critical for the entire industry.

“The one thing we’ve really seen is that people have booking fatigue, so we absolutely need consistency across the premiers and the state borders,” he said.

“People need to know that once they book, they have some certainty, and that that we’re not going to experience those snap lockdowns that people have been experiencing over the last 18 months.”

Publican says outdoor hospitality ‘safer than picnics’

The AFL grand final next weekend between two Melbourne clubs looms as a big test of COVID rule compliance, and the hospitality sector is arguing it can help keep people safe.

Pubs have been hard hit by lockdowns. And with the grand final one of the industry’s biggest days of the year, business owners are hoping for a reprieve.

Signature Hospitality Group chief executive James Sinclair has written to the Premier urging a limited reopening of outdoor areas for fully vaccinated people.

The group runs 19 venues, including The Sporting Globe chain, and it employs 700 Victorians.

Mr Sinclair proposes only one person per square metre, with seated table service.

He said hospitality was safer than picnics because it was a well-regulated environment where vaccination status could be checked.

On Thursday, Mr Andrews said it would not be safe to open pubs yet.

“We need incentive,” he said.

“By the time the grand final rolls around, nearly half of adult Victorians are going to be fully vaccinated. So they need to be given some reward,” he said.

“I fear that the failure to allow hospitality venues to safety reopen may lead to illegal and high-risk gatherings and unsupervised alcohol consumption that is counter to everything we have all worked so hard for.”

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