This afternoon I have one simple message for the government, one simple plea: please, reopen Victoria’s beauty industry, not at the end of next month maybe but now. I want to speak this afternoon on the significant petition that I tabled in this place from many Victorians, largely Victorian women who work in this vital industry but also many other Victorians who feel deeply, as I do, that this is an industry, like so many others, that can safely reopen now. I note that there are many other petitions that have been circulated with many more signatures.
We have heard in this place this week and elsewhere that of course small business has been smashed as a result of the restrictions that have been placed upon it. The many people within Victoria’s beauty industry that I have been talking with over a period of time now have expressed to me some real hope that through the road map that the government released a week and a half ago now they would see some easing and, after such a long time, be able to get back to trading, to doing what they love. However, they were sadly let down. In discussions with many people in this vital industry after the so-called support package was announced on the weekend I have heard one very clear and unanimous response from them. These hardworking small business women—the people who work in this industry are overwhelmingly women—do not want some government handout; they simply want to be able to get back to work.
I think many Victorians do not understand how important this industry is. The beauty industry in Victoria is vital, as I have said. It is a $2 billion industry—$2 billion annually. There are over 11 000 salons and clinics across Victoria with tens of thousands of staff, in the order of 45 000. Now, not only those who run these small businesses but also the employees are largely women, and it has been put to me by many of the people who work in Victoria’s beauty industry, with some suspicion, that they have noted some easing, which I entirely support, for male-dominated industries in Victoria but not for female-dominated industries like this one. Again it has been put to me—and I must say I agree with this sentiment—that it seems that the men at the top of this government simply do not understand the nature of this industry and how important it is for our state.
In making this plea today to the government I seek to reassure the government that, based on the very best evidence, this is an industry that can be reopened safely. In fact safety is in the DNA of the hardworking small business women and the hardworking staff who make up this industry. Therapists undergo extensive infection-control training. This was the case well before COVID. They are taught the risks of cross-contamination, about protection and hygiene and about the correct use of PPE. These are things that were built into the training of the expert staff in this industry well before COVID. There is now a safe clinics training program especially designed with COVID in mind, and this has been taken up by many salons and clinics entirely voluntarily.
In entirely supporting this petition that I tabled in the house yesterday I want to give my vote of thanks to Nancy Abdou, who has done so much to advocate for others within this industry. I want to reach out this afternoon to the many thousands of Victorian women—overwhelmingly Victorian women—who work in the beauty industry to reassure them that the Liberal and the National parties will continue to stand with them, that the Liberal and the National parties will continue to fight alongside them to see the opening of their vital industry, which is something, as I said, that can be done safely with COVID-safe plans and proper public health measures. It is something that can and must be done now.