UPDATED

Premier Daniel Andrews leaves door open for 'tailored support' for Wimmera border businesses

Premier Daniel Andrews in an press conference attended by the Mail-Times on Friday and, right, Sharon Merrett (right) with her business partner.
Premier Daniel Andrews in an press conference attended by the Mail-Times on Friday and, right, Sharon Merrett (right) with her business partner.

VICTORIAN Premier Daniel Andrews has not ruled out targeted support for Wimmera businesses that rely on cross-border tourists from South Australia.

At a regional media press conference via Zoom on Friday afternoon, Mr Andrews said: "I won't rule out support for businesses and workers being a significant feature of the budget, it will be.

"I would be happier to get further representations and a direct understanding of what those border communities have been.

"If there is a strong case for tailored support we would look at that."

On Friday, South Australian premier Steven Marshall said his state's transition committee had decided to keep the border with Victoria a hard border, meaning only essential travellers including those from cross-border communities can cross.

"I think it's going to remain in place for an extended period of time," he said.

Sharon Merrett, owner of Kaniva's Heartfelt cafe, said government support would be needed long-term. She estimated the business' revenue had dropped by 40 per cent compared to before the pandemic.

"It's about the highway being shut, because no one is travelling," she said.

"There are also specialty shops like the puppet shop that rely on tourist traffic."

Ms Merrett is on JobKeeper. However, her seven casual staff weren't eligible as they did not work regular hours or had only done so for less than 12 months.

"Our local trade is back to normal at the moment, and the federal gov has a thing called 'cashflow boost' which keeps going until September so that's handy," she said.

"It wouldn't be viable to rely only on locals; it would make us marginal. Our staff are only on half the hours they were before, and because of the extra cleaning, we need to do we've employed two juniors. We are also down two days a week on regular trading. I think it will get worse before it gets better.

"If the borders don't open, while they are shut we will need assistance, whether that comes from the federal or state government. Victoria did have business grants at one stage but frankly, we didn't have the time energy or emotional wherewithal to do that, whereas the federal government ones were very straightforward.

Ms Merrett said state government support could be of great help after September when the federal government plans to end the JobKeeper program.

She said it was an "emotional rollercoaster" living on the border.

"There is a constant amount of misinformation, and you're never really sure what you can believe or what you can't," she said.

"Police have been good with the community except when big announcements from the government in Adelaide overrule them. Then after a couple of days, you find out you can still travel to Bordertown to do things."

In South Australia, Treasurer Rob Lucas told the Mail-Times his government had "no plans to provide specific relief based on a business' geographic location".

While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox twice weekly from the Wimmera Mail-Times. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Wimmera, sign up below.

This story Premier leaves door open for 'tailored support' for Wimmera border businesses first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.