The Liberal Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell has used State Parliament’s first sitting week of 2021 to seek financial assistance for Wodonga businesses impacted by a police border checkpoint that was located on the Lincoln Causeway.
In a question without notice to the Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford, Ms Lovell said four businesses located at Gateway Island had suffered a substantial loss of trade, with customers unable to reach the businesses due to the location of the border checkpoint. Subsequent arrangements forced potential Victorian customers to cross into NSW and back into Victoria to access the hub. Ms Lovell sought for the Minister to provide adequate compensation to cover their loss of trade.
In her response to Ms Lovell’s question, Ms Pulford wiped her hands of any responsibility for the plight of these small businesses, despite the issue being central to her ministerial portfolio, deferring responsibility to Minister for Regional Development Mary-Anne Thomas.
The owners of the Victor Supper Club and La Maison Restaurant have estimated a 90% reduction in turnover from the same period last year, the owner of Musickids has experienced a substantial drop in Term 1 enrolments compared to last year and the GIGS Art Gallery was reportedly closed due to the location of the checkpoint.
When pressed on the issue by Ms Lovell, Ms Pulford admitted that she had personally met with an owner of La Maison Restaurant in January but again deflected responsibility for providing compensation for any losses incurred, confirming she had not taken any direct action to help the businesses involved.
Comments attributable to Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell:
“Despite being the Minister for Small Business, Jaala Pulford has attempted to rid herself of any responsibility to help these businesses who have suffered devasting economic losses through no fault of their own.
“After meeting with one business owner and hearing their plight firsthand, Minister Pulford has done nothing to help them and this failure is just not good enough.”