Adjournment- COVID-19

15 Oct 2020

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Parliament

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Industry Support and Recovery, and the action I seek is for the minister to establish a unit within the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions dedicated to revitalising our shopping strips across Victoria. Our local shopping strips need revival. They are absolutely essential to the economic and social fabric of many of our communities; they are such a big part of what makes those communities great places to live. Iconic shopping strips like Chapel Street in my electorate and across Melbourne but also the smaller ones across Victoria—so many of them are important to not just the feel and the livability of our local community but the employment of so many people who work in retail, in hospitality and in the service sector, many of them young people and women, who of course have been hardest hit by the economic fallout of COVID.

When there are empty shops, when there is a downturn, it brings the whole community down. We are seeing so much of it during COVID, and the fight for survival and the battle will go on long after restrictions have eased. So I would like to see the state government play a proactive role and show leadership in setting up a dedicated unit to work with local governments, to work with traders associations and to work with small businesses to revive our local shopping strips, to help our high streets and to implement a range of measures that we believe will go a very long way to reviving our shopping strips, supporting our local traders and of course supporting the employment of so many people in our communities—for example, supporting artists to set up studios in empty shops. Artists can play such a strong role in reviving our local communities and really bringing so much more to the character of our local areas. Or supporting our pop-up shops to take out short-term leases to see whether they can test their product, to see whether they can then go on to have a long-term lease—to upgrade our high streets to make them great public spaces and to bring people to them.

It was really good to see the state government and local governments working together on the proposed outdoor trading in the post-COVID world. I think that sets an example of what can be achieved when state government shows leadership and works collaboratively with local government on our shopping strips. And of course there is work to lower rents and decrease vacancy rates; one of the big problems that traders tell me about is that rents are too high. So if, post pandemic, landlords are unreasonably leaving their properties vacant, well, there should be scope for a vacancy tax. But certainly I would request that the government show leadership and help revive our shopping strips.

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