Infringements issued by the Department of Justice and Community Safety for alleged COVID breaches have raised the ire of small business owners who have endured the burden of changing compliance complexities for two years.
Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said small businesses should have been helped, not hounded, as what they had to do kept changing.
“These same businesses suffered multiple lockdowns that have had a crippling financial impact but went along with the rules all the same, from the reasonable to the outrageous, Mr Bull said.
“To then have COVID inspectors sweep into our country towns and villages from the city to issue fines for minor or non-existing breaches is just callous and vindictive.
“It has been reported to me there was also a disturbing lack of cultural sensitivity being shown towards business owners from non-English speaking backgrounds.
“In one instance reported to my office, a business owner received an infringement for $13,631 after a cursory two-minute visit in which no finding of fault was raised with the owner. The fine came eight days later in the mail, which they are challenging, an action I support.
“It doesn’t rest there, COVID compliance officers working remotely have sent e-mails to some business owners requesting detailed evidence of the vaccination status of staff, ABN details and other sensitive information without identifying themselves, so it looked for all the world like a scam operation.
“The targeting of small business in country towns is a disgrace and the Department of Justice and Community Safety should apologise for its inept and heavy-handed approach.