“I think there’s every chance that there are a handful of cases out there, this is a wildly infectious virus,” he said on Wednesday. “You’ve always got to assume there’s more out there than you know.”
There have been 20,345 cases of COVID-19 in Victoria and 819 deaths, most of them among the elderly in aged care.
Victorians will be able to enter Queensland from next Tuesday after its extended run of zero-case days.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Wednesday morning she would reopen the border to Victorian travellers on December 1, after the southern state recorded its 26th consecutive day without a COVID-19 case.
NSW opened to Victoria on Monday, while Tasmania is due to open from Friday. South Australia will allow Victorians to enter the state without restriction again on December 1.
Victorians are already permitted to enter ACT and the Northern Territory has been allowing regional Victorians to enter without quarantining since November 2, but still classifies metropolitan Melbourne as a hot spot.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner has previously spoken of his intention to allow Melburnians back into the territory by Christmas.
Melbourne will start to receive international arrivals again on December 7, with Mr Andrews confirming there would be trials done in the hotels picked for the relaunched quarantine program.
While infectious diseases experts are quietly confident Victoria has completely stamped out community transmission of the virus for now, they warn the biggest risk of the virus returning comes from the easing of border restrictions and the reopening of hotel quarantine.
“When we achieve 28 days we will be achieving it with bells and whistles because we will have had no new cases for 28 days and we will have no active cases left in the community,” University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely said. “It’s the complete Rolls-Royce version.”
But Professor Blakely warned that unless Australia changed its border policy and stopped accepting people flying in from the northern hemisphere, where the virus continues to run rampant, it would only be a matter of time before there was a “slip-up somewhere” and more cases leached into the community.
The last patient in Victoria infected with the virus, a man aged in his 90s, was discharged from hospital on Monday night, after being admitted last month. The man was treated at the Monash Medical Centre for more than 40 days alongside his wife who also contracted the virus.
with Melissa Cunningham
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Rachael Dexter is a breaking news reporter at The Age.
Just 44.2 per cent of Aboriginal year 3 students finished above the bottom three bands, short of the government’s target of 46.7 per cent and down on the previous year’s result of 44.9 per cent.
Similarly for year 3 reading results, the proportion of Aboriginal students above the bottom three bands fell from 56.1 per cent in 2018 to 51.9 per cent last year, significantly below the Victorian government’s target of 58.2 per cent.
The NAPLAN test results for Aboriginal students in year 7 improved over the past year with the proportion above the bottom three bands growing from 25.5 per cent in 2018 to 28.9 per cent in the numeracy test. However, this was still short of the government’s target last year of 29.7 per cent. The results for students in year 9 declined year-on-year in numeracy, while improving slightly in literacy.
Lois Peeler, principal of Worawa Aboriginal College in Healesville, said she was unsurprised by the NAPLAN results because they were “not a good thing for measuring our Aboriginal cohort”.
“The results cannot be an accurate measure,” she said. “They do not factor in that many students do not have English as their first language and most of the topics and contexts are highly unfamiliar to many Aboriginal as well as non-Aboriginal students. Commitment to mainstream and Aboriginal society and values is rarely understood.”
Dr Peeler, who has family links to the Cummeragunja Aboriginal Reserve on the NSW-Victorian border, said students often arrived at her girls’ boarding school in year 7 with a rich knowledge of their first language but limited English language and numeracy skills. Others arrive with highly interrupted schooling.
Worawa Aboriginal College combats these issues by devising personalised learning plans and dividing students into learning streams.
“Balancing the commitments of two very different cultures is complex and many students have cultural obligations that are vital,” Dr Peeler said.
“Aboriginal students are reflected in the curriculum and learning environment at Worawa, but there is a long way to go in mainstream education, including NAPLAN, in this regard.
“We focus a lot on being able to express and be proud of your cultural identity. Pride in your culture is important for anybody’s wellbeing, I think. It helps academic results but also in preparing the girls to navigate their way through the mainstream or return to their communities as leaders.”
John Guenther, an Aboriginal and remote education expert with Darwin’s Batchelor Institute, said despite Victoria’s 2019 results, Aboriginal education outcomes in the past 15 years had steadily improved, particularly through year 12 completion rates.
He echoed Dr Peeler’s statement that governments should not overemphasise NAPLAN results, and said concerning attendance rates should be viewed as a structural issue in schools, rather than a sole problem of students or families.
“We can ensure our teachers are culturally aware of the diversity in their classrooms, particularly our First Nations kids,” Dr Guenther said.
“There are systemic issues – we have to change the language we use, so we don’t call Aboriginal children “disadvantaged”, which labels them as something other than normal and discourages them from going to school. There’s no real rocket science: it’s partly about respect, raising awareness and putting structures in place to help students be their best.”
Dr Peeler suggested Aboriginal students’ poor attendance figures were a result of recurring pressures inside the school gates and at home.
“Some of the circumstances that Aboriginal families find themselves in can stem from intergenerational trauma, the socioeconomic position of families. The effect of that on students would have certainly been exacerbated this year as they spent more time at home and more technology was required,” she said.
“I have to say that racism continues to play a part in this in schools too, because we [Aboriginal people] are a minority. Our numbers in most cases in mainstream schools are very small, so kids being kids will point out the differences. Your desire to go to school drops when you feel you are targeted or exiled.”
Tuesday’s $49 billion state budget included a relatively modest investment of $105.7 million this year specifically for Aboriginal initiatives, while a total of $1.2 billion will be plunged into educational improvements such as school upgrades across Victoria.
There are about 15,000 Aboriginal students in Victoria.
Education Minister James Merlino said $7.4 million had been committed to increasing Koori engagement support officers in schools and improving the Koori literacy and numeracy program for Aboriginal primary school students.
“While we have made significant improvements, we know there is a lot more that needs to be done,” he said.
“That is why specialised and targeted education supports will be provided throughout 2021 to ensure students that may have fallen behind are supported to catch-up.”
Mr Merlino added that figures for Aboriginal students achieving in the top two NAPLAN bands had grown since 2015, though this measure was not included in the budget figures.
The Victorian government’s targets for Indigenous education are separate from the national ‘Closing the Gap’ targets, which were first set in 2008 and just two of them — early childhood education and Year 12 attainment — were achieved by 2019.
The scheme was effectively dumped for a new a new national agreement between Indigenous organisations and governments around Australia. Efforts to meet targets for school attendance, child mortality, employment, life expectancy and literacy and numeracy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people failed.
Like Dr Emily Frawley – ‘‘Year 12s leaving literature on shelf’’’ (The Age, 23/11) – I learnt a great deal from my students, whose insights into great literature often led to stimulating discussion and independent, high-end thinking, not always accurately assessed in a two-hour exam. I enjoyed my year 12 English classes too, but that subject does lend itself to coaching so that students often enter the exam room with highly polished answers in their armoury, not necessarily proof of their ability to think for themselves.
Moreover, like philosophy, great literature contains much of the wisdom of our civilisation, often in the comparatively accessible form of stories, poetry and plays. In the Greek myth, Prometheus was punished by the gods for stealing fire from Olympus and giving it to humans. The gods feared that such technology would be dangerous in the hands of clever apes, lacking in moral judgment. If we as a human race are to meet the challenge of handling increasingly dangerous technology, if we are to be more than clever apes, we need the humanities. If Australia is going to be an intelligent country, rather than merely a clever or a lucky one, we need independent, critical and creative thinkers who cut their teeth on some of the big questions asked in great literature. Janet Strachan, Docklands
Appreciating literature, but with a sense of fun
I was bemused by comments from the former chief assessor of VCE literature, Terry Hayes (Letters, 24/11), who so effortlessly discovered flaws in the latest literature study design. He says he has ‘‘watched a highly motivated student, who enjoys reading and talking about literary texts, become anxious and stressed while dealing with the new demands of accessing and understanding huge dollops of literary theory better suited to study by first year English students’’.
My experience is that literary theory is designed to guide students towards other viewpoints in order to assist with shaping their own positions. I teach literature in an all-boys, private school in the south-eastern suburbs, and make certain any class comes with an appreciation of literature’s purposes as well as an emphasis on fun. This year we bucked the trend again with a year 12 class of 26 students.
World-wide, inquests abound over the decline in both English and literature, with maths, physics, economics and subjects that will assist with money-making numbering among the suspects. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already reacted by slashing fees for in-demand courses at the expense of the humanities. Ian McKail, Cheltenham
A course better suited to university students
Terry Hayes is right in his criticisms of the study design for VCE literature. As much as the course designers might dispute it, the emphasis they have placed on critical theories leads most students to try to master abstruse, often desiccated, perspectives on texts before they have even developed their own interpretations. This is the opposite of what senior school literary study should be about, namely the close engagement of the students with vibrant texts.
Unfortunately this is a symptom of the course designers’ delusions of grandeur. Instead of tailoring a course for senior secondary students, they seem to think they are dealing with honours candidates at university who already have an extensive experience of literary texts. Is there any wonder our year 12 kids are voting with their feet? Mike Smith, Croydon
Going back to the future
Victoria used to have a dual secondary education system – ie, high and technical schools. The latter provided a high quality choice to those whose talents and interests were in trades and technical vocations and it equipped them to undertake apprenticeships or progress to institutes of technology. For some inexplicable reason, the 1980s Labor government abolished technical schools and condemned all students to a text book-based education. A generation of young people received an inappropriate education.
The introduction of the VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) was an admission that a single type of secondary education had been a failure. It has provided an appropriate choice for those who choose a technical education and training. Now, as part of the budget, it is to be abolished and merged with the VCE (The Age, 24/11). When will they ever learn? Ian Bennett, Jan Juc
Towards a fairer system
The Victorian government should be commended for its pilot scheme to provide sick and carers’ leave for casual workers (The Age, 24/11). However, the plight of insecure workers is a national problem. Casualisation is increasingly common, and disproportionately hits younger people and those without education or qualifications. While some people may believe that it is cheaper for the employer, the pandemic has shown that is is exceptionally expensive for the taxpayer.
A national solution is needed and that can only happen through changes to our industrial laws that outlaw casual and insecure work except in the most specific and constrained circumstances. The federal government should also look at measures to increase union membership. Mooted changes to IR laws thus far will only exacerbate a system that gives more power and profit to employers and weakens workers’ rights and entitlements. We need a fair and level playing field that will restore the balance between employers and employees. Robyn Edwards, Chelsea
A masterful solution
I do like Tim Pallas’ scheme to borrow $260 million for a ‘‘jobs mentoring’’ program for the unemployed (The Age, 25/11). It has the potential to operate in perpetuity. For, as the mentored unemployed find work, their mentors will become unemployed. Then more mentors can be recruited into the government’s Jobs Victoria agency to help the now unemployed, former mentors. A cure for all your troubles. Peter Fenwick, East Melbourne
Cost of petrol and diesel
My husband and I both own an electric car and can see the value in the Victorian government introducing a tax for the maintenance and building of roads. Most people we know who own electric vehicles charge them from solar panels or green energy.
Now for a more level playing field. Internal combustion engines contribute 18per cent to our carbon footprint, which in turn increases the rapidity and adverse effects of climate change. This will increase bushfire heat, longevity and range. It will cause worse droughts and more devastating flooding. These costs could be calculated and a mere 18per cent of the costs could, and should, be added to petrol and diesel sales. Meg Reeves, Wangaratta
EVs and coal and gas
Do those who believe that electric vehicles deserve concessions for environmental reasons realise that most of the energy used and dissipated by them comes from coal and will continue to do so for many years? Or that producing the minerals used to make their batteries and motors causes vast environmental degradation?
Or that increased numbers of EVs will inevitably increase the demand for grid-based power to charge them which will eventually make more thermal power stations necessary? EVs are mostly powered by fossil fuel. It just happens to be coal (or gas) rather than petrol, and generation is comfortably out of sight for the user. Morris Odell, Toorak
Just a confused mess
Many people appear confused about road usage charges. Fuel excise is a federal tax. It is just one of many taxes that form consolidated revenue. Fuel excise is not spent on roads.
The proposed electric vehicle tax is a state tax. My car has 50per cent less fuel excise charge than the proposed EV charge. Major roads are federally funded, while minor roads are state funded. The proposed EV charge is distance based, but what if most of my travel is in another state? It is reasonable to expect that EVs experience a cost for roads, but the proposal is a confused mess – just as road funding is a confused mess. Chris Thompson, Mont Albert North
Urgent SOS from the PM?
Was the Prime Minister calling for help? His mask, bearing the national flag, was upside down, a recognised sign of distress. National flags should not be used for such a signal. Indeed, they should not be used for face masks at all. Please Scott Morrison, wear a plain mask. Carol Andrews, Fitzroy North
Stop messing with super
I refer to Shane Wright’s useful analysis about ‘‘retirees not spending’’ (The Age, 21/11). Sadly, he does not mention a key driver of retirees being cautious about spending their superannuations’ hard-won balances. It is the uncertainty of government policy.
Since Paul Keating put the current regime in place, successive governments have not been able to avoid ‘‘tweaks’’ of the system, thereby creating uncertainty for retirement investors. Malcolm Turnbull was the latest bad example of this. Either leave the policy alone and allow people to invest with certainty or give them fair warning – say, five years – before changes are made. Geoff Harry, Brighton
High cost of ‘convenience’
Five delivery riders have died in three months (Comment, 25/11) and their employers bear no responsibility because they are classed as independent contractors. Many vulnerable migrants are forced to work as delivery drivers because they have been excluded from federal government support during the pandemic. They are paid on average $10.42 an hour after costs by overseas platforms.
I am sure there would be a clarion cry from the public if it were our young people dying on the roads at the same rate. These young men have families who are mourning their loss. In some instances, their deaths represent a total loss of income for their families. The federal government must ensure there is legislation that protects these workers. And consumers must question the fact that overseas platforms are taking 30per cent of the profit from our local restaurants for a meal, with the potential of costing someone their life to deliver it. Caitriona Prendergast, Black Rock
Lessons in road etiquette
Yes, this is a terrible loss of life. However, there needs to be better training for delivery riders as well as legislative changes. In the CBD, often they cycle through red lights, across pedestrians crossings and on pavements, do not use lights at night and do not look behind them when they are pulling out. They need to be taught road rules and etiquette. This could be done by their employers or by way of a government subsidy. But it could well save lives. I cycle every day in the city, although not in the past few months, so have seen this behaviour first hand. Colin Hood, Carlton North
Commuters, mask up…
Taking the step back to public transport is a big one now. Commuters need to feel okay about riding together. Metro Trains and the Victorian government can help by making SMS the only permitted phone option on trains. Who has taken off their mask and is getting bad vibes from everyone in the carriage? The guy making a 20-minute call. This is stressful for other commuters. Annie Bolitho, Preston
…and visitors, tidy up
Melburnians, thank you for leaving all that rubbish on the beaches and other parts of Torquay over the weekend. It gave the local residents something to do for a few hours in cleaning up the mess. That is something we did not miss during the lockdown. Cheryl Westlau, Torquay
Be good, little Victorians
Re the opening of the Queensland border: Does anyone else feel like a child in school who has been sent to the naughty corner, patted on the head and told that if you behave yourself, you can come out on Monday? Margaret Haggett, Cheltenham
Let him pay his own way
I am outraged. Mathias Cormann leaves Parliament on a generous pension but seeks a job in Europe paying about $377,000, tax-free, and the Australian taxpayer picks up the tab for flying him to and around Europe in an RAAF jet for a couple of weeks. It is this sort of ‘‘snout in the trough’’ behaviour that destroys any trust or confidence that one might have in the current government. John Thompson, Seymour
Finger in many pies
Nero may well have preferred golf, Mike Preeston (Letters, 24/11). But it seems clear that Donald Trump is no stranger to the fiddle. Rob Warren, Ivanhoe
Face reality of defeat
With the third count of votes taking place in Georgia, Donald Trump should give some thought to the expression: ‘‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’’ Keith Lawson, Melbourne
Only minority support
Amid the almost universal rejoicing over the fall of the Chaplinesque, Washington, would-be dictator, one important detail seems to have escaped the attention of most. Since only about two-thirds of eligible voters cast their ballots, it could be truthfully stated that neither candidate obtained a clear majority, and that both the winner and the loser represent a minority of the total electorate. A sobering thought. Dino Bressan, Ivanhoe
AND ANOTHER THING
‘‘Agent Orange’’ has been fired for the last time. Now we await the first signs the world will be a better place. John Hennessy, Glen Iris
How ironic that a goose has pardoned a turkey. Frank Stipic, Mentone
Will the turkey in chief pardon himself? Tony Kane, Maldon
000 – Licensed to Spend, supported by Mask On, Mask Off. Michael Cowan, Wheelers Hill
The spending will not be paid for by manna from heaven but, ultimately, by every Victorian. Bill Holmes, Kew
Why the fuss? The government is just spending in one go what it, and previous ones, should have spent over the past 10 years. Alan Duncan, Frankston South
Michael O’Brien, the last time the Liberals had a mega project was when Kennett closed 350 schools. John Johnson, Richmond
It would be fairer to put a tax on the sale of new ‘‘other vehicles’’ to encourage the use of electric cars. Ann Shephard, North Fitzroy
The only real plan the government has for compulsory super is to scrap it. Annie Wilson, Inverloch
Maybe the RAAF flight is the only one you can light up a cigar on. Philip West, Jan Juc
Can I get a free myki to go to job interviews? If l get a job, l promise not to accept a Commonwealth pension. James Lane, Hampton East
Thank you, Ita Buttrose, for defending our ABC. I only hope ScoMo takes note. Lisa Bishop, Macleod
Welcome back, Paul Keating, de facto opposition leader. Dick Davies, North Warrandyte
Re the alleged war crimes. Linda Reynolds says there’s been a ‘‘failure of leadership at multiple levels’’. Surely that includes a series of prime ministers. Ian Cooper, California Gully
Note from the Editor
The Age’s editor, Gay Alcorn, writes an exclusive newsletter for subscribers on the week’s most important stories and issues. Sign up here to receive it every Friday.
Tuesday’s budget included massive expenditure on other rail infrastructure including $2.2 billion for the Suburban Rail Loop, $2 billion for Geelong Fast Rail and $1.248 billion for 100 new trams but there was no funding boost for the Western Rail Plan, raising concerns it has been put on the back burner.
Commuters in the west rely on a V/Line service which runs every 20 minutes in peak periods and was, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, often unreliable and chronically crowded.
Under the Western Rail Plan, the V/Line and Metro train tracks would be separated and new electrified lines built enabling larger, faster trains to run from the city to Wyndham Vale and Melton.
Last year the government set aside $100 million for the planning and design works but allocated no new money for key elements of the project in the 2020/21 state budget.
A further $30 million was tipped into the project by the Commonwealth this year but neither the state nor federal governments have mentioned the Western Rail Plan in press releases for more than a year.
The proposed upgrades – which were intended to be planned alongside the airport rail link – also did not feature in public statements about the new line to Tullamarine which was announced by the Premier and Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the weekend.
Melton Council says residential estates are being built in six new suburbs directly aligned to the rail line and will bring an extra 183,500 residents within the rail line’s catchment.
The council is calling for electrification to be done by 2025 with Infrastructure Australia predicting that demand for Melton trains will grow three-fold by 2031.
“We’re concerned to see it left out of this state budget, especially following the announcement of the Suburban Rail Loop, Melbourne Airport Link and Geelong Fast Rail,” said Melton mayor Kathy Majdlik.
“We’d like reassurance that these projects will not come at a cost to providing additional and much-needed metropolitan rail services to Melton.”
Wyndham, which had a population of 217,122 in the 2016 census, is set to grow by 80 per cent by 2036.
“Trains are regularly overcrowded at Wyndham stations and there aren’t enough stations to service our growth areas,” said Wyndham mayor Adele Hegedich.
Cr Hegedich said while the money for Geelong Fast Rail was welcome, “we need assurance that the additional capacity that the Wyndham community will need will be catered for through the Western Rail Plan as a priority”.
The $2 billion the government set aside for the first stage of Geelong Fast Rail would see Geelong lines run on new express tracks between Werribee and Laverton, creating capacity for an extra three peak hour trains to run via Wyndham Vale.
No new funding was set aside for electrification and new tracks between the city and Sunshine –which would have opened up more capacity for electric trains to Melton and Wyndham Vale – have been ruled out of the plans for the Airport Rail Link.
A government spokesperson said the $2 billion it invested in Geelong Fast Rail was delivering on key objectives of the Western Rail Plan.
“The Western Rail Plan clearly outlined Geelong Fast Rail as its first priority – the plan is only possible once you get the Geelong project underway.”
Rail Futures Institute’s secretary John Hearsch said the electrification works were a greater priority than Geelong fast rail and the government’s argument that those improvement needed to be done first meant electrification was “clearly donkey’s years” away.
“We’d always assumed the opposite – that electrification to Melton and Wyndham Vale would be done before the Metro Tunnel opens in 2025,” he said.
Swinburne University’s director of urban design Ian Woodcock said it was “very disappointing” the Western Rail Plan did not get extra funding in the budget. COVID-19 may have moderately slowed population growth he said but “we were playing catch up anyway” with upgraded rail services.
Opposition transport infrastructure spokesman David Davis said the government had “dropped the ball on the Western Rail Plan”.
“This is sorely needed given the huge population growth that has occurred in the Melton and Wyndham Vale corridors … this could have been proceeded with quickly, instead the government seems intent on a focusing on long-term grandiose proposals that will take many years to deliver.”
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Victoria and Western Australia are the only jurisdictions left in Australia where the use of group voting tickets allows Mr Druery’s strategy to affect the outcome of elections.
In 2014, Mr Druery’s group of candidates won five of 40 seats and in the 2018 election he was paid by at least six of the 11 crossbench MPs currently in the upper house.
Ms Patten said the practice amounted to “a corruption of our democratic process” and said she would seek to amend the Electoral Act to make it an offence to work for more than one candidate or party coordinating preference deals.
“People should not be able to buy their way into parliament,” Ms Patten said, “but effectively that is what has been happening.”
“Group voting tickets exist for a reason, but currently they are being manipulated for profit. This is a corruption of our democratic electoral process and does not reflect the will of voters.”
Ms Patten paid Mr Druery $20,000 to help get her elected in the 2014 election, but did not use his services in the 2018 campaign. She referred Mr Druery to authorities for planning group voting tickets while he was working as a staffer to then-senator Derryn Hinch.
The leader of the Liberal Party in the upper house, David Davis, said Mr Druery subverted representative democracy, an indication that the bill had a chance of gaining upper house support, but the preference whisperer himself labelled the potential laws “oppressive”.
“Do we live in China or Russia? Give me a break,” he said.
“Fiona advocates centre-left libertarian values and she wants to introduce this oppressive legislation … Without my services, she wouldn’t be in parliament.
“If [she] puts up legislation that harms minor parties’ chances of re-election, she will very likely face their preferential wrath at the next poll.”
Mr Davis said it was clear preference harvesting overturned the voting intention of the public because parties from opposing ends of the ideological spectrum preferenced one another.
“It makes no sense other than gaming of the system,” he said. “You want the democratic will of the people reflected in the parliament, not a lottery.”
Paul is a Victorian political reporter for The Age.
The Treasurer admitted the debt would take “decades” to pay off but insisted it was a necessary burden to reverse the economic damage wrought by COVID-19 lockdowns.
“There is no doubt that this will take a considerable period of time … yes it’ll be decades,” he said.
“[But] we need to grow the economy, you cannot cut your way out of a recession, you have to actually seek to grow your economy. Secondly, we’ll get to an operating cash surplus and that will happen within a matter of years.”
Premier Daniel Andrews said while the debt was unprecedented, it paled in comparison with that racked up by the federal government in its recent budget.
“I’m not reporting to you a trillion dollars worth of debt, which is where the federal government finds itself,” he said.
“We are investing now, appropriately to get this place going again.”
Mr Andrews also hit back at critics in the hospitality sector who claimed the budget had left them with “table scraps” after the impact of COVID-19 on the sector.
Restaurant & Catering Australia chief executive Wes Lambert said he was disappointed the budget didn’t include a statewide voucher scheme for eateries, as was announced in the NSW budget.
“With Victoria restaurants [sic] still down over 30 per cent in revenue from 2019, R&CA was hoping for initiatives that could stimulate demand and get our sector moving again, like was announced in NSW, but unfortunately instead we’ve been left with the budget equivalent of table scraps,” said Mr Lambert.
Mr Andrews said while the description of “table scraps” was a “very colourful turn of phrase”, Mr Lambert’s criticism was “in no way based in facts”.
“There’s been very significant support to that industry, whether it be not just cuts to payroll tax, but full refunds of three-quarters of a year’s payroll tax back in their bank account [or] numerous payments of up to $30,000 for some of these venues.
“I would respectfully put it to whoever made that comment and any of their members that the best thing I can do for restaurants is make sure people are in work, so they can turn up and be customers at those restaurants.”
Of the 28 per cent of city businesses that have shut their doors, half of those are vacant. Across the CBD, an estimated 2000 businesses are either closed or empty, leaving thousands out of work.
“This is an economic crisis which has very real consequences for the people of our city,” deputy lord mayor Nicholas Reece said.
“It is bad out there at the moment. We need in extraordinary times to be taking extraordinary measures.”
Before the pandemic struck, an average 911,000 people travelled into the CBD every work day.
But the council estimates the number of workers, visitors and tourists entering the CBD will fall by 38 per cent, even after Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement on the weekend that 25 per cent of workers could return to offices from Monday.
While 10 major employers including NAB and Telstra have signed up to a City of Melbourne “CEO pledge”, vowing to bring at least 70 per cent of their workforce back to the CBD, fulfilling that pledge could take months.
The number of pedestrians in the CBD on weekdays is about half the amount of pedestrians last year. Weekend pedestrian numbers remain about 30 per cent of last year’s figures.
Council officers report that between 7.30am and 4.30pm on Monday, just over half of the council-managed on-street parking spaces within the CBD grid were occupied.
Under the plan, to take effect from Tuesday, motorists will be able to access free parking vouchers from the City of Melbourne and display them in their windscreens. Parking time limits will still apply.
Ms Leighton said the scheme could bring in between 36,000 and 48,000 additional visitors every day. If they each spent $75 during their trip, the scheme could return between $2.7 million and $3.6 million to city businesses every day.
The council forecasts it will lose at least $1.6 million in parking revenue between December 1 and January 3, when the scheme is due to finish.
Lord mayor Sally Capp said local businesses were looking to the city council for action and assistance.
“At this time, they are looking to us for solutions that recognise that they are experiencing devastating financial situations and every single dollar and every single initiative that can help drive revenue makes an enormous difference for them,” she said.
“The fact that every day makes a difference can’t be understated.”
The plan was opposed by the Greens councillors and independent Jamal Hakim, who argued the free parking scheme is a departure from the council’s Transport Strategy 2030, adopted last year as council policy.
That policy commits the council to disincentivising car use, and encouraging public transport, walking and cycling.
Consultants from the Institute for Sensible Transport, which helped shape that strategy, said they were disappointed at the shift to incentivising car use.
“Trying to compete with the likes of Chadstone or Fountain Gate on parking is a race they will never win, and nor should they want to,” senior transport analyst Vaughn Allan said.
Cr Capp said the council’s own data showed there were “significant” amounts of available car spaces each day.
“We need to be a competitive destination for people to come and do their Christmas shopping,” she said. “We know that free parking is an incentive that does attract people.”
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Bianca Hall is City Editor for The Age. She has previously worked as a senior reporter, and in the Canberra federal politics bureau.
As part of The Age‘s Marvellous Melbourne series we are presenting 30 photographs in 30 days to celebrate our city.
Bookmark this page to come back and see each day’s contribution from our award-winning photographic staff and regular contributing photographers.
Photograph #3 – Centre Place
All hard chairs and cramped confines and graffiti art, Centre Place is Melbourne’s original laneway pitstop, where since the 1980s we’ve come to sacrifice comfort for style (and a good coffee). As the city awakens slowly from its COVID slumber, the tables are freer than they once were, but the interiors are as inviting as you remember, and on the menu are good food, fresh conversation, and perhaps even romance.
Photograph #2 – Williamstown by the water
As the sprinklers dance and whistle in the spring sunshine, it’s a time like no other for a morning stroll along the water at Williamstown. The cranes of the city’s port stand sentinel in the background as locals take to the shiny paths on the edge of summer and of hard-won freedoms in the new COVID normal.
Photograph #1 – St Kilda Pier
Traversed by tourists and tiny penguins and decorated with a quaint little kiosk, St Kilda pier has been one of Melbourne’s go-to places for a breezy walk during COVID-19 lockdown. So deeply loved was the kiosk that, when it burned down in 2003, the state government volunteered to rebuild using the 1904 plans and that is how it rose from the ashes. The other favourite activity at the pier – a glimpse of the penguin parade – has been out of bounds since March because it’s impossible to socially distance the crowds that squeeze on the viewing platform. With restrictions easing, that could open again soon, though there’s no news yet. Meanwhile, you can still enjoy the view and the walk, now without a mask. Or, like this woman last week, a dainty little fossick across the rocks.