As we move towards ‘COVID normal Australia’, the Prime Minister’s National Cabinet needs to be more mindful of people, organisations and businesses in regional areas.
The advice of health experts needs to be central as we move ahead, but regional economies, many of which have already been flattened by drought and bushfire need extra consideration.
Eden Monaro has been COVID free for months yet our small business people have had to live with the same rules and restrictions on trade as those in Sydney.
In Bombala last week I meet with Paul Perkins who runs Raw Strength and Fitness from the old Olympia theatre.
Paul has had to reduce his hours in order to accommodate the need for a COVID marshal during opening hours; business is down but costs are up.
At Jindabyne Brewing, Karl Veiss told me how he has been able to adapt his business to rise to the challenge but has had to draw on his superannuation to provide himself with an income because of JobKeeper restrictions.
Many of our regional businesses are only just hanging on, clinging to hope that this summer might start to repair some of the damage.
COVID normal in regional areas needs to reflect the local risk; everyone wants to do the right thing and keep our community safe, but we can’t afford to lose businesses and jobs from our regional communities.
This is complex, but I trust that we can develop more localised COVID-Safe plans as we learn how best to live with this.
The Prime Minister needs to respond to the anxiety many are feeling and start sharing his plan for jobs and community wellbeing.
While we wait for a vaccine, we need a plan that supports local livelihoods.
People’s good will is being tested, the best way of keeping people engaged and playing a positive role in the control of COVID-19 is to make a fair plan, set the direction and build confidence.
Photo: With Karl and Eric Veiss at Jindabyne Brewing.