It’s obvious Chairman Dan has never had a real job and learned nothing from his father who once sold produce at the Victoria Market. Like many a Socialist Left apparatchik Andrews joined the ALP while at university and began his career in politics; a career involving key party administrative positions and acting as an electoral officer culminated in being the assistant state secretary of the Victorian branch of the ALP from 2000-02 and election to parliament later that year.
Steeped in the Machiavellian, internecine art of politics it’s understandable why Andrews has no understanding or sympathy for those in the food, tourism and retail industries that constitute the backbone of the Victorian economy and its way of life.
Only those who have experienced the unforgiving reality of profit and loss, the gruelling hours spent working and managing a family-owned business and the anxiety and fear caused by an uncertain future can appreciate how destructive Chairman Dan’s Covid-19 road map is.
Instead of seeking advice from those who are being forced into bankruptcy like the dictators once ruling communist USSR and Eastern Europe Chairman Dan adopts a command and control, one-size-fits-all model imposed from his Spring Street bunker.
For Chairman Dan there is no uncertainty nor willingness to be flexible or to admit it’s his fault Melbournians are suffering one of the harshest and most debilitating lockdown regimes in the Western world.
And in the same way that Stalin’s 5 Year Plan of forced collectivisation led to misery and pain what Andrews has imposed for the rest of this year will lead to nothing but increased financial, emotional and mental suffering and loss.
While struggling restaurants, coffee bars, hotels and markets like the Queen Vic managed to survive during the first wave there is no doubt many will be bankrupted and not survive in the period up to Christmas.
Sheltered from the harsh reality of trying to make a living where survival depends on making a profit Andrews justifies his road map to recovery by referring to the advice of a select few experts and future scenarios based on what he describes as world-leading computer modelling.
Like the technocrat he is, for Chairman Andrews the facts and the science are beyond doubt. Ignored is that even experts agree computer modelling is not an exact science and that what might eventuate is based on assumptions and calculations far removed from the real world.
Science is also never absolute or set in concrete as the scientific process is based on critical evaluation and inquiry where what is taken for granted is always subject to reassessment and review.
If the Premier remembered those years his father sold produce at the Victoria market he would know how vital Victoria’s food and restaurant industries are and how his actions represent a scorched earth policy calculated to destroy the hopes and livelihoods of so many.
It’s no accident that Victoria’s coat of arms depicts a woman holding an olive branch and another a cornucopia –– a symbol of abundance with cascading vegetables and fruits.
What used to be called Marvellous Melbourne gained a worldwide reputation as the culinary capital of Australia epitomised by a constellation of restaurants ranging from classic Italian, Greek, Japanese and Cantonese to innovative new-age restaurants drawing from the Asia rim and the Middle East.
Whether celebrating a birthday at one of Melbourne’s oldest restaurants Florentino’s, a business lunch at world-renowned Flower Drum or simply catching a quick bite at one of the myriad fast food outlets and coffee bars eating out has been a daily ritual for millions.
Events like the Melbourne Food and Wine festival beginning in 1993 showcased our food and wines to the world and Michelin winning overseas chefs including Nigella Lawson, Osteria Francescana, Atul Kochhar and Heston Blumenthal regularly demonstrated their skills.
Beginning years ago when Italian migrants enriched our food culture by opening up Lygon Street in Carlton or more recently when Victoria Street Richmond become the home of Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian cuisine Melbourne has established one of the most vibrant, and cosmopolitan food precincts in the world.
As argued by Chin Chin’s owner Chris Lucas instead of supporting the industry Chairman Dan’s actions represent a death sentence. Made worse by the fact that the Victorian government with a bit of common sense could avert what is an ever-increasing downward spiral.
The five-kilometre radius limit restricting travel must be increased to at least 12 to enable more customers to buy produce at places like the Victoria market and to eat out. At the same time, the curfew should be extended to 11.00 pm and venues while ensuring social distancing and strict hygiene must be allowed to reopen.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of A Politically Correct Dictionary and Guide (available at kevindonnelly.com.au)
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