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Tough restrictions hit Victorian dealers

Stage 4: Melbournians can purchase a car online or over the phone and attend a dealership to complete the transaction where strict safety protocols are in place – and if it is within 5km of their home.

Showroom doors to close but ‘click and collect’ in play amid Melbourne lockdown

4 Aug 2020

THE Australian automotive industry has suffered another major setback at the hands of the worsening coronavirus crisis in Victoria as Stage 4 restrictions announced this week will force the closure of motor vehicle showrooms and a variety of other retail, wholesale and manufacturing businesses in Melbourne.


All retail premises will close for the next six weeks in metropolitan Melbourne, starting midnight on Wednesday, August 5, which means dealers can still operate a ‘click and collect’ type of service in which consumers can purchase a car online or over the phone and only attend the dealership to complete the transaction where strict safety protocols are in place and providing it is no more than 5km away from their home.


Details provided by the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) and the state government’s industry guidelines on Stage 4 restrictions show that on-site work at automotive operations across a range of areas must be closed. 


As well as vehicle sales, these include motor vehicle and parts retailing and wholesaling, auction houses and transport equipment manufacturing where it is not deemed “critical to public transport service (or) spare parts manufacturing critical to continuity of service”.


While the front end of dealerships will not have their doors open, service departments are allowed under the state government’s transport sector provisions to perform vehicle repairs, servicing, maintenance and, where applicable, towing services.


However, this will only be allowed “where providing support to a permitted service or industry or where required to maintain the health and safety of Victorians at home or at work”.


Ports remain open and road transport and support services can all continue to operate. 


Warehousing and distribution centres will also not be forced to close, but will be limited to no more than two thirds of the normal workforce allowed on-site at any one time.


According to the VACC, exemptions will be made for businesses conducted by a sole operator and at the discretion of Victoria’s chief health officer where manufactured goods or services would, if forced to shut down, “otherwise permanently close and create a major supply chain gap in the state’s industrial capability that would unlikely to be filled after a return to normal conditions”.


The same applies where a business is “critical to global supply chains in the local and international manufacture of essential products overseas, such as medical equipment and supplies”.


Heavy truck manufacturers can remain open, as can component manufacturers that have diversified into other areas deemed critical such as defence or security industries. 


For those businesses that are allowed to stay open, they have until midnight on Friday, August 7, to enact a ‘COVID Safe Plan’ that Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said is “focused on safety, prevention and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace – because beating this virus requires a rapid response wherever it rears its head”.


Businesses and industries that fall into grey areas when it comes to their operation can have their case considered by an Industry Co-ordination Centre set up within the state government’s department of jobs, precincts and regions.


Businesses that “suffer significant losses or need to close as a result of the current restrictions” can apply for a grant of up to $10,000 (Melbourne and Mitchell Shire) or $5000 (regional Victoria).


“Honestly, this will be an imperfect process,” the premier said. 


“The decision of which column to put millions of Victorian jobs – millions of Victorian workers – could never be clear cut. And as much as we’d like one, there is no playbook when it comes to a pandemic.


“But what is clear is that if we don’t do this now, if this doesn’t work, then we’ll need a much longer list of complete shutdowns.


“It’s hard to imagine what a Stage 5 might look like. But it would radically change the way people live. Not just rules on when and where you can go shopping – but restrictions on going shopping at all.


“This will be hard. It’ll be frustrating. It’ll be confusing. For a lot of workers and their families, it’ll be heartbreaking.


“But the only way to get people back to work and businesses back open is by making these tough decisions – and by Victorians abiding by them.


“We have to make this work. Lives and livelihoods are counting on it.”

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