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Construction will be key to helping Victoria recover from the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic, premier Daniel Andrews says.
The Premier said on Monday big construction jobs across the state would become more important than ever.
“These construction jobs have always been important to me, and now they are more important than ever for every single Victorian,” he said.
“We have the biggest construction program in the state’s history, and it will need to get bigger once this crisis is over as we push out of what is a really significant shock to our economy.”
Mr Andrews said while the state had suffered “unavoidable damage” to the economy “construction will be a very big part to the recovery from the coronavirus crisis.”
It came as the Premier announced the early completion of the level crossing removal at the Toorak Rd and Monash Freeway interchange.
The site is one of the most congested intersections in Melbourne, with about 37,000 vehicles travelling through it each day in normal periods.
The road will reopen to motorists today after crews worked around the clock for nine days to complete the project.
The level crossing was the 35th to be removed under the Andrews government, with the Premier confident of hitting a government target of 50 level crossing removals by 2022.
Strict protocols are in place on all Major Transport Infrastructure Authority worksites to protect the health and safety of construction workers and the community.
“Work looks a little different on our big build – with extra physical distancing precautions in place due to coronavirus, so we can protect our workers and protect their jobs,” Mr Andrews said.
Transport Infrastructure minister Jacinta Allan said the level crossing removal was one of several significant construction projects continuing across the state.
They include the Metro Tunnel Project, the North East Link Project and the Regional Rail Revival program.
CAFES BAND AGAINST FOOD DELIVERY FAVOURITES
Melbourne’s cafe and restaurant owners are calling on both delivery service companies and consumers to give them a break during the coronavirus pandemic.
Buckling under the financial pressure of enforced closures, they say the 30-35 per cent commission rate charged by companies such as Uber and Deliveroo are not feasible.
The owner of Legacy and Fourth Chapter cafes, Susan Rep, said the fees were ridiculous.
“In a time of crisis, you would think they’d have some form of empathy towards small businesses,” Ms Rep said.
“We’ve been shut down because of government regulations. It’s not like it’s our fault. We’ve been forced to close. They just need to be more flexible with their fees given that we’re not making the income we would normally.”
Ms Rep said the income of most cafe and restaurant owners would be down 90 per cent and when a meal at her cafe costs $20, to take 30-35 per cent commission from that is untenable.
“We really need something like Uber at the moment but I’m not going to join,” she said.
“If they reduced their rate, I’d be on board but it’s not worth it.”
Others have established their own delivery services as well as using Uber, to occupy their own staff.
Fonda owner Tim McDonald said that, while home delivery was here to stay, consumers should accept that their average $5 delivery fee (it ranges from $5-$6.95) means that services such as Uber hit the restaurants with high fees to compensate.
“The delivery fees are so cheap for the consumer that it’s unsustainable because they’re competing for market share but if you want your restaurant to be sustainable, you need to accept you have to pay more for it to be delivered to your house while you’re on the couch in your pjs,” Mr McDonald said.
He uses Uber and Deliveroo but has started enlisting his wait staff to do deliveries as well to save money. He has also developed an off shoot delivery service of vacuum packed meals, Stanley St Kitchen, to try to combat the loss of business.
Kobi Boalan, co-manager of new restaurant The Lady of St Kilda, said he was a prisoner to the delivery companies.
“Every cent I can get would help at the moment but the 35 per cent charge is unviable in this environment but I really wish consumer habits would change. We’re in love with the simplicity of these services but the delivery costs need to drop.”
Restaurant and Catering Association head Wes Lambert said restaurants and cafes could increase their prices on their delivery menus to help cover the cost of delivery commissions. He also said that Australia’s 47,000 Restaurant and Catering Association members could take advantage of discounted delivery charges if they used Menu Log or Uber Eats.
“Delivery is here to stay because over 4 million consumers are on the delivery apps,” Mr Lambert said.
“We’re now in an environment, because of COVID-19, where 100 per cent of production is take away and delivery where, before COVID-19, it was 8 per cent of restaurants’ revenue. We expect that after the virus, 20-25 per cent of revenue will still be from takeaway and delivery because consumer behaviour will have changed.”
An Uber spokesman confirmed there were no plans to change the commission structure.
“We already have more than 20,000 restaurant partners available on the app across Australia, with more than a million items to choose from, covering every eating occasion,” the spokesman said.
“Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic we have witnessed an influx of new restaurants – as well as existing restaurants already on the Uber Eats platform – looking for ways to increase their digital business.
“The strain on the hospitality sector following increased social distancing measures has been immense. As more restaurants turn to on demand food delivery as a way to connect with customers, Uber Eats has deployed staff from other parts of our business, including New Zealand, to accelerate the on boarding process for restaurants in Australia. For a lot of these independent restaurants, every hour of trade counts – to keep staff employed and pay suppliers. The responsibility to help is one we take seriously.”
A Deliveroo spokeswoman also confirmed the fees wouldn’t change, claiming the charges go towards improving services for restaurants such as contact-free deliver and pick-up.
“At this stage there is no change to Deliveroo’s commission fee structure, however at this worrying and uncertain time, Deliveroo is working hard to provide restaurants with another way to stay in business while venues aren’t allowed to welcome diners,” she said.
– Catherine Lambert
OPERATION SENTINEL CONTINUES
Another 158 fines were dished out to Victorians disobeying stay at home orders on Easter Sunday.
Operational Sentinel reaped more than $261,000 in revenue from the latest batch of fines.
Among the people who were fined yesterday include;
SIX outlaw motorcycle gang members gathered in cars in Flinders Street;
EIGHT people playing loud music at a St Kilda East house party; and
A NUMBER of overseas tourists partying at a Cowes Airbnb.
Since March 21, Victoria Police has conducted 20,426 spot checks.
NO FINES ISSUED TO PEOPLE AT CEMETERIES
Victoria Police has been unable to find any record of people being issued fines for visiting cemeteries over the Easter weekend.
In a statement issued to the Herald Sun, police said they sent “clear instructions” to its members last week.
“Discretion is to be used if people are attending the cemetery to pay their respects to loved ones,” a police spokeswoman said.
“We have done an extensive search of our database and cannot locate a record of any infringement issued in relation to people attending cemeteries,” a police spokeswoman said.
“In the case of people visiting cemeteries, in the absence of any other factors which may have led to an infringement being issued, these fines will be withdrawn and we ask them to contact police accordingly.”
CEO of the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust Deb Ganderton said while visitor access to cemeteries was “still possible” she urged visitors to “stay at home unless absolutely necessary” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During these difficult times, restrictions are in place at our cemeteries,” Ms Ganderton said.
“Unless attending a funeral, we urge visitors to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.”
Ms Ganderton said funerals were limited to no more than ten mourners and their indoors mausoleums had been closed from April 8 until further notice.
“Visitor access to cemeteries is still possible,” she said.
“The limit on gatherings of two people applies strictly across all GMCT cemeteries and memorial parks, and visitors must observe appropriate social distancing.”
A Health Department spokesman said there was no specific advice in relation to people visiting gravesite, but the general advice was to adhere to social distancing and pubic gathering rules.
“States and territories may have their own rules which are relevant for their particular circumstances,” the spokesman said.
HAVE YOUR HOME SCHOOL QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Do you have questions on how school will work from home? You can submit your queries to our education reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get the answers from the Department of Education.
Be sure to send through your questions by 10am Tuesday.
CORONAVIRUS CASES BY MUNICIPALITY
Melbourne’s city council area has recorded four more coronavirus cases overnight — more than a quarter of the new Victorian cases — as the state’s total rose by 13.
The latest Department of Health and Human Services data shows the state has a total 1281 positive cases — an increase of 13 from Sunday.
Figures by council area, released to Leader, reveal Stonnington still tops the state with 88 cases.
HOUSE INSPECTION BAN TO BE DUMPED
The Victorian Government is set to overturn its short-lived ban on physical inspections of occupied homes, the state’s peak real estate body says.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria president Leah Calnan told the Herald Sun she was expecting an announcement today that agents would be able to “resume conducting private inspections at occupied premises, on the provision they adhere to strict requirements”.
These included social distancing, hygiene measures and conducting them one-on-one.
HOW VICTORIA’S FARMERS ARE FEEDING AUSTRALIA
Victorian farmers working around the clock to keep Australians fed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
At Emma Germano’s farm in Mirboo North, Gippsland, she and her family fatten lambs and grow vegetables including cauliflower, potatoes and carrots.
The 35-year-old, who is also the Vice President of the Victorian Farmers Federation, revealed that life on the farm has been busier than ever over the past few weeks.
While the demand is greater than ever before, Ms Germano assured that farmers in Victoria are producing more than enough food to keep supermarkets stocked.
“Farmers don’t make up their mind about what they’re producing for tomorrow today, they’re doing that over 12 months or even longer so the supply was always there,” she said
“Not only does agriculture have your back now during the pandemic, we’ll be a sector that’ll be a powerhouse towards helping to repair the economy because it’s business as usual.
“For the amount of arable land we have here in Victoria, we punch well above our weight in terms of Australian producers.”
Sallie Jones runs Gippsland Jersey and supplies milk, butter and dairy products to more than 200 supermarkets, restaurants and cafes across Melbourne and eastern Victoria.
With 650 cows being milked daily across their Gippsland farms, the 39-year-old – who processes the milk at the Lakes Entrance dairy farm she grew up on – said her business is up to the challenge of meeting increased demand from panicked consumers.
“Cows aren’t going to stop giving milk, chooks aren’t going to stop laying eggs, veggies are still growing and the bees are still making honey. Australian farmers produce enough food to feed us,” Ms Jones said.
“Each year we’ve been in business, there’s been adversity for us. When we started out in 2016, it was the milk crisis and my dad passed away. Then that was followed by drought and bushfire – now we have COVID-19.
“It’s not been without challenges but we always believe and know, through our experiences, that there’s always opportunity through adversity.”
While keeping supermarkets stocked up isn’t a problem for farmers, Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke urged the public to be mindful of food waste when they’re shopping.
“Even though foods have their seasons, we’re in a great position here in Australia that we’re able to produce all year round. Here in Victoria, farmers are producing more than enough to meet demand.
“One thing that is a concern for us is food waste. A lot of fresh produce might only have a short shelf life so we’re asking consumers to be mindful about what they’re purchasing if they’re panic buying.
“Take a minute to stop and think ‘Do I really need seven bunches of bananas right now or will one do?’.”
HEALTHCARE HEROES GIVEN FREE PARKING
Frontline healthcare heroes will have free street parking around Victorian hospitals as they grapple with the coronavirus crisis.
In an unprecedented show of coronavirus goodwill, only restrictions for clearways, ambulance zones, and other dangerous “red sign” zones will be enforced by parking inspectors.
Councils will wave fees and fines for green sign spaces, saving some nurses, doctors, and other staff hundreds of dollars a month.
The peak body for councils, the Municipal Association of Victoria, is working with the Andrews Government on statewide guidelines for the free parking system.
This campaign has already seen free mobile phone coverage provided to health workers, as well as accommodation if they are forced to self-isolate.
Melbourne City Council also announced it would waive parking fees for healthcare workers, which is now being rolled out across Victorian hospitals dealing with COVID-19.
President of the MAV, Councillor Coral Ross, said all councils “recognise and applaud the courage and commitment of Victoria’s healthcare workers on the frontline responding to COVID-19”.
Cr Ross said many councils had already started work on a plan to avoid haranguing motorists around hospitals.
“To reduce stress and cost for healthcare workers, many councils have proactively been working with hospitals within their municipality to put in place free on-street parking arrangements close to major hospitals,” she said.
“We ask that other community members support this initiative by avoiding parking close to hospitals unless absolutely necessary.”
Cr Ross said it was important that safety was still monitored, warning that motorists flouting clearways and ambulance zones would be penalised.
“The MAV has been working with the Victorian Government to establish a statewide set of principles to underpin the arrangements between hospitals and councils,” she said.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the initiative was great to see.
“Our health staff are doing an incredible job fighting coronavirus – and we need to do everything we can to make their lives easier during this pandemic,” she said.
The government is also hoping to create an arrangement for private car parks attached to hospitals.
Parking Australia chief executive Stuart Norman said the landlords of these sites were effectively the Department of Health, which sets prices, and the government “can act to make parking on these sites free for hospital workers”.
Mr Norman said councils “should be commended for assisting health workers to access cheaper parking”.
STATE’S SAFETY NET FOR MENTAL HEALTH HELP
The state government has announced a $60 million package for mental health services amid the coronavirus crisis.
Authorities are concerned that requirements to stay at home and limit physical interaction are causing stress and uncertainty for people.
Nearly a quarter of calls to Lifeline in recent weeks have involved COVID-19 issues, while Beyond Blue predicts demand for services will rise by 30 per cent by June.
Premier Daniel Andrews said staying away from friends and families was vital to stop spreading the virus, but it could be very hard emotionally.
“We need to keep people connected to the treatment and services they need while taking pressure off our hospitals which need to be focused on the fight against coronavirus,” he said.
Nearly $18 million will go to the roll out of an extra 170 youth and adult acute mental health beds.
And $7 million will help mental health services give support to those with sever conditions via phone and video to stop relapse and presenting to hospital emergency departments.
Another $6.7 million will go to expanded online and phone counselling services by Beyond Blue, Lifeline, Kids Helpline and Suicide Line Victoria.
Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said: “This investment in people’s mental health and wellbeing will save lives and is critical to our social and economic recovery after this crisis is over.”
CORONAVIRUS COULD DERAIL 1000 JURY TRIALS
Almost 1000 Victorian jury trials could be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been revealed.
For the first time the County Court has acknowledged the impact of the crisis, warning that the scheduling of an estimated 750 trials will be affected because of the crisis.
There are fears the impact could cause years of delays in the court.
The figure was revealed in a new practice note to the legal profession released by the court.
It doesn’t include the significant number of Supreme Court jury trials also expected to be affected because of the pandemic.
In an effort to combat the expected delays the County Court has now introduced a series of emergency case management procedures to try and fast track some cases.
County Court chief judge Peter Kidd has described the COVID-19 pandemic as the most challenging crisis in recent memory for courts.
The pandemic has seen the Victorian court system effectively grind to a halt.
Hundreds of cases have been automatically adjourned while others are proceeding either without the need for appearances in court or via videolink.
All new jury trials have been suspended across the state.
It is not yet clear when trials will resume, but the courts have acknowledged it won’t be before the last quarter of the year.
Read more on this story, here
DRONES READY TO NAB RULE-BREAKERS
Victorians playing soccer and rugby are the latest coronavirus isolation idiots to be slapped with hefty fines.
Police were out in force and used drones to patrol beaches over the Easter weekend in a bid to keep crowds at bay.
Officers issued 92 fines on Saturday with 550 spot checks at homes and businesses.
Nine people were fined for gathering at a rented short-stay apartment in Southbank and another nine for playing rugby at a reserve in Wyndham Vale.
Seven people were also fined for playing soccer at a Mill Park oval.
It came as Borough of Queenscliffe council roped off a popular meeting spot on the Point Lonsdale foreshore on Saturday night to disperse groups testing social distancing restrictions.
“That’s the one spot we keep getting calls about,” Bellarine Police Sergeant Greg Taylor said.
“There are chairs and tables on the promenade opposite the shops, where people seem to gather after getting their coffee or doing their shopping, so the council roped them off.
“We’ll keep visiting that location regularly and actively police the provisions of the COVID-19 restrictions as presented by the (Victorian) chief health officer.”
Sgt Taylor said a number of young adults on the Bellarine seemed unwilling to follow the safety orders.
“We’re still finding groups of youths travelling in large numbers at night with no valid reason, so it’s important they know we will be out there actively enforcing the restrictions,” he said.
Police at Torquay said it had been a quiet weekend on Surf Coast beaches and roads, with most people complying with the restrictions.
Surf Coast mayor Rose Hodge confirmed agreed.
“It’s been very quiet; a few people out exercising, but all good social distancing. Thanks to everyone who has heeded the ‘stay at home’ message,” Cr Hodge said.
“We look forward to welcoming them all back when this is over.”
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