Australia imports most of its cut flowers but growers fear international blooms may breach biosecurity


It’s not unusual for brides inspired by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Megan Markle to spend $150,000 on wedding flowers.

But that yearning for thousands of buds comes at a cost to local flower growers — at least half the flowers sold in Australia come from countries like Kenya, Colombia and Ecuador.

“In the winter months when Australian flowers are very light on, 90 per cent can be imported flowers,” floral designer John Emmanuel Grima said.

He relies heavily on imported blooms, and buys them from Craig Musson, who imports Ecuadorian roses when he’s not breeding, growing and exporting native flowers.

Craig Musson imports Ecuadorian roses to supplement his income, in the months he can’t grow and export native flowers.(ABC: Armin Azad)

Mr Musson said Kenya, Colombia and Ecuador supplied the majority of the world’s roses.

“The number of roses sold in Australia from those three countries may be as high as 90 per cent,” he said.

The international trade, however, has forced smaller growers out of the industry.

“Where we originally had a couple of hundred rose growers, we’re now probably down to about 30 because roses, carnations, chrysanthemums have become the biggest import items into Australia,” New South Wales flower grower Sal Russo said.

A man in an orange vest holds a bouquet of flowers at a market.
New South Wales flower grower Sal Russo and national farm lobby groups fear imported fresh flowers are a biosecurity threat to other agricultural crops.(ABC: Simon Amery)

Waiting for a biosecurity breach

What keeps Mr Russo awake at night is the thought that imported blooms are a ticking biosecurity timebomb.

National farm lobby groups agree.

“To be honest, it’s quite surprising we haven’t had a pest or disease incursion threatening those $27-billion industries already,” said Tyson Cattle from peak body AusVeg and the National Farmer’s Federation’s Horticulture committee.

Data from the Federal Department of Agriculture shows that from September to January, 63 per cent of flowers imported from just one source country arrived carrying foreign pests and diseases.

Between 19 and 41 per cent of imports from three other destinations had similar problems.

Boxes of roses on sale at a market
Imported roses are a popular choice for supermarkets and petrol stations.(ABC Illawarra)

The Department wouldn’t name the individual countries, but industry sources believe the biggest offenders to be Kenya, Colombia, Ecuador and Malaysia.

Acting assistant secretary for agriculture and biosecurity, Peter Creaser, said overall “non-compliance” — where shipments were found to contain pests and diseases — had dropped by 20 per cent, although that recent data was recorded during a period when overall imports fell due to the pandemic.

“We do inspect 100 per cent of all consignments that come into Australia … so when we talk about 25 per cent of non-compliance at the border, it doesn’t mean that those flowers have been released into the environment without any action,” Mr Creaser said.

“They are actually being inspected and then if there are any live pests of concern, we will have those flowers treated here in Australia.”

A bunch of red roses - imported from Kenya.
A bunch of roses imported into Australia from Kenya in time for Valentine’s Day.(Supplied: Kenya Flower Council Facebook)

Exporting countries now have to fumigate flowers before they’re sent to Australia, or be certified by a national plant protection agency.

Anyone wanting to import from Kenya, Colombia or Ecuador needs a special permit.

Mr Russo claims the Federal Government has caved to the lobbying power of cashed-up importers who “think they’re above the law”.

It’s an allegation Mr Musson disputes.

“Australia has the strictest biosecurity regulations bar none, so anybody who’s flouting the laws is going to get caught and prosecuted, as they should,” he said.

Watch this story on ABC TV’s Landline at 12:30pm on Sunday, or on iview.



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Coronavirus: Sandwell traders fear a potential local lockdown could be ‘final nail in the coffin’ | UK News


Market traders in the West Midlands say business was already tough before coronavirus – and now they fear a second wave or local lockdown could be the “final nail in the coffin”.

The borough of Sandwell, which includes West Bromwich, Oldbury, Tipton and Smethwick, is currently in the top 10 of areas in England with the highest rates of infection.

This leaves it in danger of having local restrictions being forced upon it by the government.

Sandwell’s rate of infection rose to 28.1 per 100,000 people in the week up to 27 July, from 26.9 the previous week.

Brett Packer has been selling clothes and home furnishings on the market in West Bromwich for more than 15 years
Image:
Brett Packer sells clothes and home furnishings at a market in West Bromwich

Last month, West Bromwich Albion was promoted to football’s Premier League but now the area is climbing a less welcome table.

In the town’s market, trade is only just beginning its return to health after the rigours of lockdown and none of the stall holders or shopkeepers want to see a second wave.

Brett Packer has been selling clothes and home furnishings at the market for more than 15 years.

He said trade was already tough before coronavirus.

“It used to be heaving here on a daily basis, Monday to Saturday,” he said.

“But this could be the final nail in the coffin. And if we get a second wave that could really devastate the whole area.

“If they lock down Sandwell and Smethwick, people will drive to Birmingham, they’ll drive to Merry Hill. They’ve got to do their shopping somewhere.

“And the danger is they might not come back.”



Boris Johnson says people can still go back to the office tomorrow – but some venues won’t reopen and large events will be postponed.



31 July: Boris Johnson delays lockdown easing

The council is trying to forestall the sort of government intervention seen in Leicester, Greater Manchester, Blackburn, Calderdale, Kirklees and Bradford.

It held an emergency meeting on Friday, and has issued amended advice to keep the infection rate down.

The council’s deputy leader Maria Crompton said: “Nationally, the government has advised people who are shielding they could stop shielding from Friday 31 July, but anyone in Sandwell who is shielding is strongly advised to continue to shield to keep themselves safe.

“We know people are looking forward to going out again. However, we are very strongly advising people who are shielding to stay put for now and go out as little as possible.”

The council has issued the following advice:

  • Continue to shield if you are already shielding
  • Do not go inside other people’s houses
  • Get tested and isolate if you have symptoms

The mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has said there are no plans to lock down any boroughs within the region.

But authorities in Sandwell add the caveat that if the new advice is not heeded, more restrictive measures are “highly likely”.



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COVID-19 pandemic, border closures fan fear of the other


The pandemic has bolstered a growing enthusiasm for closing borders versus external threats — and business is unwilling to present any incentive to end it.

Queensland Leading Annastacia Palaszczuk (AAP/Glenn Hunt)

At the psychological core of society’s reaction to a pandemic is the Other. Many Other folks. The infected are Many others until finally they get well, needing isolation and exclusion. Individuals who recklessly or even intentionally boost the chance of infection are Many others, in breach of societal norms and deserving of denunciation.

The racist demonisation of people today of colour in relation to the ailment works by using standard Other stereotypes of non-white individuals as unclean. And ultimately, in an epidemiological twist on Sartre’s l’enfer, c’est les autres, all people today other than your individual residence grow to be Some others, to be held socially distanced, probable resources of plague and loss of life.

That voters in states like Western Australia and Queensland are pleased to possibly maintain their borders sealed towards interstate journey, or exclude significant swathes of the exterior population, is vexing to the federal federal government and business enterprise who want borders reopened.





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Karens of Australia fear name has evolved from light-hearted jab to form of discrimination


While Karens around Australia can sometimes see the funny side of their name’s use in popular culture, they are worried by the moniker’s increasingly negative connotations.

It’s a view shared by one of the country’s top linguistics experts, who believes the term has evolved to become derogatory and offensive.

Karen was thrust back into the spotlight at the weekend amid the response to a viral video filmed by a woman who confronted Bunnings staff who had asked her to wear a mask in one of the hardware chain’s Melbourne stores.

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‘Bunnings Karen’ condemned online for refusing to wear mask

Roly Sussex, emeritus professor of applied language studies at the University of Queensland, said Karen had been a common term in the United States for more than a decade.

Some say it originated with the “Oh my God, Karen, you can’t ask someone why they’re white” internet meme from the 2004 movie Mean Girls.

Others say it came from a meme in 2014 that depicted a woman’s blonde-streaked haircut with the caption: “Can I speak to the manager?”

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Nowadays, the term is commonly used to describe women who supposedly complain a lot, those considered to have a sense of entitlement, or commit public acts perceived as racist, such as unjustly calling the police on black people.

Professor Sussex said the use of Karen had evolved to be sexist, ageist and racist.

“It has become a way of pigeonholing certain sorts of behaviour — and the behaviour itself is not admirable — but on the other hand if you are already called Karen, why should you have to bear the weight of accumulated public disapproval?”

A picture of a woman with with an odd haircut, with the caption: 'This is Karen. She'd like to speak to the manager.'
Karen memes first appeared as light-hearted content on social media.(Supplied)

Real Karens and fake Karens

For Karen Andrews, the federal member for the Gold Coast-based seat of McPherson, Karen memes have been a source of amusement, however she said she was uneasy with the newer pejorative usage.

“We do laugh about it, and even at home if I’m not happy about it, my kids will say, ‘Uh, oh, Karen is going to call the manager’,” she said.

Karen Andrews speaks to the media with a pink banner behind her
Karen Andrews says there are two types of ‘Karen’ in Australia.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

“A real Karen would have been wanting to see the manager at Bunnings and say, ‘No-one should be allowed in here if they are not wearing a mask’.

“But then there is the fake Karen who doesn’t want to play by the rules.

“The fake Karen is just appalling, not acceptable, and they should not be able to hide behind something that is pretty light-hearted and pretty much fun.”

What’s an Aussie alternative?

Karen Bishop from Mackay said she took no offence from the memes but believed Sharon would be a better fit for the stereotype in Australia.

A woman wearing red glasses poses with a blonde girl wearing a medal.
Mackay dance teacher Karen Bishop and student Aria Maddison-Stanton.(ABC Tropical North: Melissa Maddison)

“You have got to remember that it did start in America,” she said.

“It’s the photos that make me laugh the most, the haircut, because I actually had the haircut for a long time.”

What other Karens think

“It doesn’t feel great when you see your own name only ever used in a negative context now. I know the origins of the Karen meme was a pretty powerful challenge to racism, so I try not to take it personally.” — Karen Pickering, Wollongong

“The name Karen is supposed to mean versatile, humanitarian, protective … all these beautiful combinations, but I’ve never felt that. There were times [when I was younger] I wanted to change my name to Charlotte.” — Karen Phillips, Gold Coast

“I am 80 next week and I’m very, very happy that my mother gave me the name Karen. I’ve never had any trouble. My mother gave me Karen Mae, after Mae West.” — Karen Lafferty, Ingham

“I find the whole Karen thing quite upsetting. I go out of my way not to be a jerk and make sure it’s no harder for anyone to get from one end of the day to the other than it already is.” — Karen Hunkin, Canberra

“I think it’s funny, I love it. Where’s the Aussie spirit? Everyone used to take the micky out of everyone. It’s gone so politically correct, no-one is game enough to have fun anymore.” — Karen Moodie, Gold Coast

Are Karens an endangered species?

Karen dominated Australian lists of popular baby names in the early 1960s but has progressively slipped from favour.

There are fears the name could all but disappear because of its contemporary connotations.

“The term Karen is American and we imitate the Americans an awful lot.

“I am afraid that because of that, it would take someone almost super-human to nullify that negative overtone.”



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Safe as houses no more as banks fear spike in bad loans


With political leaders warning other COVID-19 outbreaks are likely, Slade says the key issue is managing the sheer level of uncertainty facing the bank and its customers.

“How do we get this balance, to make sure we support customers [and] try and manage the overall impact to the economy?” she says.

“But, of course, there is that recognition that there will be customers that won’t recover from this. We’ve added resourcing into the parts of the bank that deal with customers in hardship, and we’re working with customers on an individual basis to figure out when the right time is for them to make that shift.

“Because it’s not in our interest or their interest to keep them on a deferral if it’s clear to us and to them that they’re not going to come out the other side of it. We’re much better off moving to helping them work through other options.”

Her comments illustrate the challenge facing thousands of borrowers and a multibillion-dollar cloud of uncertainty hanging over Australian banks’ loan books.

The banks are recognising that there will be customers that won’t recover from this.Credit:Peter Braig

Markets expect a rise in bad debts caused by COVID-19, but the extent of this increase will be a critical influence on profits, and therefore dividends, for the country’s biggest financial institutions.

Since the pandemic struck in March, banks have allowed some $266 billion in home loans and small business loans to be deferred as hundreds of thousands of borrowers have lost their incomes or been stood down.

The temporary measure has provided crucial breathing space for borrowers who watched their incomes evaporate overnight, but the cold financial reality is those loans continue to rack up interest.

There will be a limit to how long banks and regulators will allow the deferrals to continue, but there is also debate over what more banks and policymakers should do to keep people in their homes when the repayment pauses expire.

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For bank investors, meanwhile, it adds up to even more uncertainty, which is predicted to weigh on returns from dividends for the forseeable future.

Banks around the world have formed a key plank in countries’ attempts to absorb some of the financial carnage unleashed by coronavirus by allowing borrowers to press the pause button on repayments.

After initially being offered for six months in Australia, the deferrals were this month pushed out to a maximum of 10 months, but banks stressed these extensions would only go to borrowers who really needed them.

About three months after most of the deferrals were granted, banks are conducting mandatory “check-ins” with borrowers, which is in itself a massive logistical effort that has required re-deploying and hiring hundreds of staff.

I think between September and January we will probably see a bit of a rise in properties on the market from people who have concluded that they won’t be able to make their repayments.

Martin North, Digital Finance Analytics

Any customer who can afford to resume repayments is being strongly encouraged to do so, while at the other extreme, bankers are having what they often call “difficult conversations” with borrowers in financial strife. Most of the customers with deferred loans fall somewhere between these two extremes, but all need to be assessed individually.

Just how many of near 900,000 deferred home loans, business loans, personal loans and credit cards will end up in trouble is a matter for debate, that will in part depend on the path of the virus.

Some more optimistic observers such as Atlas Funds Management chief investment officer Hugh Dive say that for all the economic uncertainty, Australia’s situation is still far better than most. This should protect banks from a catastrophic wave of bad home loans, he says.

“People will do whatever they can to keep their house. In previous downturns the bad debts have been not as much in mortgages than they have been in corporate loans,” Dive says. “I don’t expect a big ballooning in household bad debts.”

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Others are more pessimistic. Digital Finance Analytics managing director Martin North says surveys he has conducted suggest about 40 per cent of the customers who have deferred their loans would struggle to resume repayments.

He says the extent of the problem will depend on structural unemployment – such as the recent permanent job cuts at large employers such as Qantas, UNSW and Deloitte.

Banks are already working on ways to help affected borrowers manage, whether it is through extending the terms of loans, selling other assets, only paying interest, fixing interest rates, or tapping into their superannuation. But there will be others, North says, who are encouraged to sell their property.

“I think between September and January we will probably see a bit of a rise in properties on the market from people who have concluded that they won’t be able to make their repayments,” North says.

While he does not expect mass foreclosures, which would not be in banks’ interests, North argues the extra sales of homes will weigh on property prices, and the recovery ultimately hinges on what happens to unemployment.

Against such grim predictions, some consumer advocates are highlighting the enormous costs to the community and individuals if families are indeed pressured into selling their homes.

People will do whatever they can to keep their house.

Hugh Dive, Atlas Funds Management

Tony Robinson, a former Victorian government minister and a director of Financial Counselling Australia, says current policies have worked so far but warns they won’t be enough when the current deferrals start expiring. He warns of a potentially catastrophic impact on stretched young families in the outer suburbs if banks act too aggressively to push borrowers to sell.

“There are some people for sure who may make the decision to sell. But if we end up with lots of people feeling they have no other decision but to sell, that will be a disaster,” he says.

“It seems to me logically we need some form of external unconventional support, which shares this risk around.”

Consumer Action Law Centre chief executive Gerard Brody also says banks must not treat this as a “business as usual” credit cycle. He says there are other ways to support customers in hardship beyond deferring payments, such as waiving revolving credit card debts or working with people until they are able to find employment. While acknowledging the financial realities at play, he says governments must play a role too.

“What we’ve been saying to banks and credit providers is that they’ve got to offer assistance that lasts as long as people need,” Brody says.

Dividend dilemma

For bank shareholders, it adds more uncertainty. Bad debts are historically the major swing factor for bank dividends, which were already at stretched payout ratios before the pandemic struck.

But banks and the market cannot truly understand the condition of banks’ loan portfolios while borrowers are so heavily supported by government assistance. As part of what regulators called a financial “bridge” across the pandemic, banks are also receiving concessions that mean they do not need to treat deferred loans as being in arrears for capital purposes.

Jefferies banking analyst Brian Johnson says the market will not know the condition of banks’ loan books until all the government support expires, and this will depend on the economy’s ability to bounce back. “A bridge to nowhere is an upward-sloping pirate’s plank,” he says.

Regulators have also ordered banks to preserve their capital – which prompted ANZ and Westpac to suspend their half-year dividends. Johnson, who has an “underweight” stance on banks, believes dividends will either not be paid or offset by dilutive issuance of new shares through dividend reinvestment plans.

Given all the uncertainty about the economic outlook, some say it looks like a long road ahead for banks and their investors, rather than a quick bounce-back.

Investors Mutual portfolio manager Michael O’Neill says there is a case for conservatism from bank boards, and he tips dividend payout ratios will be between zero and 40 per cent. He says it could take until 2022 for returns and dividend payout ratios to return to more normal levels.

“I think banks are looking to conserve more capital rather than take the risk that they might have to raise capital at a future time,” O’Neill says.

Banks, for their part, have not given guidance on how many of the borrowers with deferred loans will be able to resume repayments. More details will be provided when the Commonwealth Bank reports its annual results on August 12, with others to provide quarterly updates in coming weeks.

CBA chief executive Matt Comyn this week said he was optimistic more people would resume making repayments, but he acknowledged most were too uncertain to do so at the moment.

NAB’s Slade stresses that every customer is different, which makes the process of checking in with each borrower to understand their circumstances “really critical.” “Every customer’s situation is different, so it’s working through that with them and of course encouraging customers to repay if they can, because that’s the best thing for them,” Slade says.

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Sydney public housing block residents fear coronavirus outbreak like in Melbourne


Sitting in her apartment on the first floor of a public housing tower in Waterloo with the walls covered in pictures of her family, 74-year-old Masalo Laumua has never felt more alienated.

“I know what people think of us, that we’re low-lifes, living like we’re dirty but we’re just like everyone else trying to stay clean and safe.”

Ms Laumua, 74, lives in a public housing estate in Waterloo, inner Sydney, which includes over 2,000 dwellings.

She claims there is no clear sanitisation protocol or social distancing enforced, and worries a growing coronavirus cluster in south-west Sydney could affect towers like hers.

Nine public housing towers in Melbourne, home to about 3,000 residents in 1,345 units, were placed in “hard lockdown” earlier this month after tenants contracted coronavirus.

Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton has previously highlighted the “explosive potential” for COVID-19 to spread in high-density public housing towers.

The Waterloo estate has over 2,000 dwellings.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)

Ms Laumua is aware the virus can linger for days and as someone with underlying health issues her safest option has been to largely keep to her apartment.

However it has been devastating for her sense of connection to others.

“It’s been hard without that family connection every day, hugging and kissing my grandchildren — that’s gone,” Ms Laumua

“It’s been a very lonely time.”

A man poses for a photo
Richard Weeks founded the Waterloo Public Housing Action Group.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)

Richard Weeks, who is the founder and chairman of the Waterloo Public Housing Action Group says sanitising confined spaces like the lifts was something tenants had to battle for during the outbreak.

“Cleaners are meant to clean the lifts every day, but they use the same cloth over and over, spray something on the wall and walk out,” Mr Weeks said.

“Sterilisation isn’t taken seriously.

“For older residents it is terrifying, because then what’s next if someone catches it? Will what is happening in Victoria happen here? Will there be access to food?” Mr Weeks said.

The NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) is the agency responsible for the NSW Government’s public housing portfolio.

It said in a statement that cleaning was done in accordance with the requirements of NSW Health to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“Land and Housing Corporation has had in place a thorough cleaning program implemented in all 28 of its high rise buildings,” a spokesperson said.

“LAHC continues to review its response, and is in the process of adding sanitiser dispensing stations at the entry to the buildings.”

A woman sat in her home
Masalo Laumua hopes people have some understanding as public housing is put into the spotlight.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)

Mr Weeks said using lifts in the estate was a nightmare due to social distancing, which meant only two people were allowed in at a time.

“The second one is always out of order, so when you’ve got 40 people coming into a building that houses 400, you’re usually waiting an hour in peak time,” he said.

Mr Weeks has often seen the rules broken with groups of eight piling into lifts.

“Security here do a damn good job but they’re not being supported by the housing department who should do more and warn tenants who break the rules,” Mr Weeks said.

A Department of Communities and Justice spokesperson told the ABC that the NSW Government has been working closely with social housing tenants to keep them informed on NSW Health advice.

“DCJ staff also called every tenant over the age of 70 to check on the welfare and offer support. This decision was made based on the increased vulnerability of older people to COVID-19,” the spokesperson said.

Ms Laumua claimed that she had barely seen cleaners in the past six months — often because there’s no extension cord to take the vacuum down the narrow hallway.

“We pay rent we have the right to live in a clean and healthy place.”



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Why does Wall Street fear a Democrat in the White House? The data just doesn’t add up


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SA Government considers allowing interstate kangaroo processors to buy local carcasses, businesses fear for livelihoods


South Australian kangaroo processors are worried a change in industry regulations could put them under pressure or even out of business.

The SA Government is mulling over a change that could mean out-of-state processors could buy kangaroo carcasses from SA without needing to establish an abattoir in the state.

In Orroroo, in the state’s mid-north, Dews Meats uses kangaroo meat to make products like kangaroo schnitzels and kebabs.

Owner Taryn Ackland was worried that with the drought knocking down kangaroo numbers, the extra competition from other processors could cost jobs.

“It’s going to have a large impact because of anybody out of Broken Hill, or out of anywhere in Victoria, they can just come across, take the numbers that they want … then take them out of the state to process them,” she said.

Ms Ackland says the industry is only harvesting about 20 per cent of its kangaroo quota.(ABC Adelaide: Lauren Waldhuter)

Kangaroos are not farmed so processors pay shooters for carcasses.

Rosedale Meats owner Tony Gyss said out-of-state processors could simply headhunt SA shooters rather than bringing in their own, leaving SA processors with no way to get meat.

“So, you’re still going to have the same shooters shooting the same amount of kangaroos and potentially putting us under pressure and potentially putting us out of business.”

Kangaroo populations fall

The SA Government estimates there are about 1.5 million red kangaroos in the state, followed by 1.3 million western grey kangaroos and 570,000 wallaroos, or euros.

For red kangaroos, that is a fall of 39 per cent from the previous year and 4 per cent down on the average.

Kangaroo Meat for sale at the Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne.
Kangaroo meat for sale at the Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne.(Supplied: Eric in SF/Wikimedia CC BY-SA)

Eastern grey and euro populations are estimated to be above the long-term average.

However, Mr Gyss said in practice he was having a hard time finding kangaroos to process.

A bad time for change

Macro Meats buys kangaroo carcasses from interstate to use in its abattoir in SA as well as paying shooters locally.

Managing director Ray Borda said he was not opposed to out-of-state processors being able to eventually buy carcasses shot in SA.

However, he said now was a bad time to introduce this change due to the drought and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is such a thing as free trade between states and I do agree with that; the only problem is the timing,” he said.

“Everybody is looking to employ people within SA and this, in its own little way, does not help.”

Ray Borda, National President of Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia wears a cooking apron at Tokyo Game Fair
Mr Borda says allowing out-of-state processors to take kangaroos could put the industry under pressure.(ABC News: Jake Sturmer)

The change was meant to come into effect from Wednesday, but a State Government spokesperson told the ABC the change has been deferred.

“As a result, the Government will defer the implementation of the changes and further consult with industry stakeholders to ensure that the needs of all market participants are taken into account going forward.”



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Fear and frustration for residents and business owners in Melbourne’s coronavirus hotspots


While much of Australia has been enjoying easing coronavirus restrictions, residents in six Melbourne hotspots are worried about local case numbers rising and what that means for their health.

Soultan Zaytoune runs a Lebanese family sweets business in Moreland in the city’s north.

He is worried about the spread of the virus in his local area and the impact on his business.

“You are a bit scared,” he said.

“But what do you do? You have to still open.”

While he has still been opening, Mr Zaytoune says size restrictions on family gatherings in Victoria will impact on his business.

Victoria had allowed gatherings of up to 20 people, but this week reduced those to five visitors at a time and outside gatherings to groups of 10 people.

Mr Zaytoune says the sweets he sells are usually taken to large family gatherings or parties, but with both of those types of events now banned, there will be less demand for his goods.

But it isn’t just business Mr Zaytoune is concerned about.

He said the rising number of cases in Victoria had left him feeling unsafe.

In Moreland there has been 72 cases of coronavirus recorded with six cases detected this month.

A large family cluster was discovered in the suburb of Coburg with 14 people linked across multiple households.

Time to stay home

Further to the north, Gwen Sams lives with her husband and two sons in Greenvale in the local government area of Hume, which is another hotspot area.

Ms Sams said she was worried about the risk of contracting coronavirus.

“I will be staying home, leaving the house as minimal as necessary and hoping more people do the same so we can get on top of it,” she said.

Gwen Sams sits with her partner and two young sons.
Gwen Sams (left) says her family will be staying indoors and avoiding any travel because of a spike in coronavirus cases in parts of Melbourne.(Supplied: Gwen Sams)

Ms Sams said she was glad her son’s school was already on holidays and she could keep both her children at home.

She said she was also supportive of the advice of health authorities, requesting residents in hotspot regions avoid travel interstate or to regional areas.

Ms Sams said she only planned to leave her local area for medical appointments.

“I think people need to respect we got things under control and now it is not,” she said.

“We need to pop these restrictions back in place and if it has to be regional instead of statewide, then so be it.”

Happy to follow health advice

Back in Moreland, Coburg resident Connie Nikolovski said she was not worried about specific areas being highlighted for having an increasing number of cases.

“I just think they are keeping us up to date to where all the current cases are, I myself try very hard to stick to the rules and I hope everyone else does,” she said.

Ms Nikolovski said she had planned to be travelling but did not believe it was a hardship to stay home.

She said if her area was to face further restrictions, she would follow the rules.

Connie Nikolovski stands smiling at the camera from the footpath on Sydney Road in Brunswick
Connie Nikolovski says she is trying to do the right thing and will follow State Government advice.(ABC News: Chris Sonesson)

But for others, the prospect of area-specific restrictions was concerning.

Brimbank Mayor Georgina Papafotiou leads another local government area with recent coronavirus cases.

She said Brimbank City Council welcomed the extra health measures the Victorian Government was putting in place, including increased testing locations and increased engagement with multicultural communities.

But she raised concerns about further restrictions.

“We understand the need for safety when it comes to such a prevalent virus, but any further restrictions would put additional strain on residents and businesses already suffering financially,” she said.

Travel restrictions ‘unfair’

Pat Senserrick stands in front of the glass walls of his shop, next to a sign about coronavirus restrictions.
Pat Senserrick says most people are doing the right thing and following coronavirus health measures in Brimbank, in Melbourne’s north-west.(Supplied: Pat Senserrick)

Pat Senserrick runs a fruit shop in Keilor in the local government area of Brimbank and is the president of the Keilor Traders Association.

He echoed the concern of Cr Papafotiou.

Mr Senserrick says Brimbank is a huge area and the recent outbreak of cases is not a problem across all suburbs in that local government area.

“I don’t know anyone who has been directly affected, I am yet to hear of anyone in my circles and I deal with the public all day long,” he said.

He thinks it is unfair for the entire Brimbank area to be classified as a hotspot.

“Yes it is not great, but I think a bit of perspective is also important so people don’t feel so panicky,” he said.

Ms Senserrick also said he thought it was unfair for health authorities to ask all residents in Melbourne local government areas with recent cases to avoid regional or interstate travel.

“Most people I come across are all being very sensible, they have been observing people’s space and doing the right thing,” he said.

He said he was worried a small number of people were not following coronavirus guidelines and were making life harder for all people across affected local government areas.



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