The National Retail Association has issued a scathing rebuke of the Queensland government’s messaging about not shopping online during the lockdown in a bid to limit the spread of COVID-19.
- State government asks people to reconsider purchasing non-essential items online during south-east Queensland’s lockdown
- The National Retail Association says this move could potentially ‘kill’ the retail industry
- There are calls for more clarity around what is considered an essential worker and an essential business
Queensland authorities have urged people to reconsider shopping online — and using click and collect services — to purchase non-essential goods, in an effort to limit delivery workers moving around communities and exposure between customers and staff in the 11 local government areas in lockdown.
Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young today asked people to reconsider whether they really needed to purchase items or leave their households this week.
Staying home and avoiding deliveries, she suggested, would help ensure the lockdown could be lifted.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles also said it was not the time to be buying outdoor furniture while Health Minister Yvette D’ath urged people to think about whether they wanted to go outside and risk transmitting and spreading COVID-19, and thus extending the lockdown.
Messaging could ‘kill retail industry’
However, in a video posted on social media, National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb said her members were “absolutely appalled” by Dr Young’s appeal to consumers.
“In effect, she’s asking shoppers to no longer online shop this week, to no longer click and collect, and has also published an essential retail list on the website without updating the Queensland Health directive,” Ms Lamb said.
“What this does to business is, it means they no longer have the ability to negotiate with their landlords, they will have no foot-traffic, they will also not be able to operate their [distribution centres] because the level of click and collect will be down.
“A direction like this could potentially kill the retail industry within Queensland.”
Delta variant sparks largest outbreak
Queensland is facing its largest COVID-19 outbreak since the first wave of the virus began last year, with 63 cases in a cluster linked to Indooroopilly State High School.
Dr Young said that, if residents did not do “something really, really, really special in Queensland”, they would be extending the lockdown beyond this Sunday.
“Last year, I didn’t have any problems with Bunnings being open and people going and buying pot plants and doing some gardening but that was with previous variants,” she said.
Dr Young also asked individuals not to solely rely on public health directives — which have “gaps” — to determine what they were permitted to do and to instead think about whether they really needed to leave their home at all.
Calls for ‘essential business’ definition
Ms Lamb called for a change in policy to legislate what is essential retail and to let businesses access financial stimulus, and to be able to stand down their staff.
“We need the policy to match up with the messaging,” Ms Lamb said.
“We absolutely cannot sustain messaging that deters people from shopping in the industry, which is the second-largest employing industry in the country.
“We employ the most youth. Our workers will not have jobs. Our businesses will not be able to continue to trade. This is lunacy at its best.
“We need to update the policy to allow our business to operate within a framework, which means they can continue to trade, at least a little bit — we cannot operate with absolutely no income.”
Business support package criticised
Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick this week announced a $260 million package of $5,000 grants for small and medium businesses that have been affected by the latest lockdown. These grants, he said, could be applied for within two weeks.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland has said more than 60 per cent of businesses would not be able to access the support payments, because they are non-employing sole traders.
Opposition leader David Crisafulli today called on the state government “to go back to the drawing board and start again” on its support package for businesses.
“I want to see a commitment that the scheme can be done on a sliding scale to give different businesses the opportunity to tap into a different amount of money for their different circumstances to get them over the line,” he said.
“I don’t believe it’s acceptable that a sole trader isn’t eligible for some form of financial assistance.
“I don’t believe it’s acceptable that a business that might need a little more than $5,00 to sustain themselves and get over the line shouldn’t be eligible to tap into a little bit more money if it’s the difference between them keeping staff in a job or not.”
Mr Crisafulli acknowledged that there was an onus on individuals to do the right thing but said the state government needed to provide certainty about what an “essential worker” and an “essential business” was.
“There will always be a grey area but, when you don’t try and spell out a little bit of black and white, it leads to red hot anger and that’s what we’re feeling at the moment in the community,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Treasurer said the government’s COVID-19 Business Support Grants were aimed at supporting businesses that employ Queenslanders.
“Through Services Australia (formerly Centrelink) and the Australian Tax Office, the federal government has responsibility for supporting individuals, including sole traders and casual workers who have lost income.”