On the morning of July 14th, Victoria’s latest lockdown occurred on many streets and in all directions across the Capital Region. The main areas affected were Victoria’s public and private educational institutions, businesses and government offices. All non-essential services were stopped and locked down. The closures included Victoria’s latest Square Foot Retail Mall, Federation Square Retail Park, Holburn Place Shopping Centre, Victoria Shopping Centre, the Royal Botanic Gardens, De Grood Terrace, and the National Motorcycle Museum. All non-essential government and commercial staff were evacuated and closed off while police investigated what was going on.
This event is unprecedented in Victoria. Victoria has locked down nearly half its public transport system during previous scares like cyclical storm damage, Black Saturday, and the terror attacks in Sydney. Lockdowns have also been used in major Australian Cities in past years, when businesses need to deal with a substantial amount of customers. These types of lockouts have been extremely disruptive to Victoria’s business community. In fact, in some cases, businesses in these areas have suffered more closures and lower revenues than during previous bushfires or bush floods.
So why is this happening? According to Victoria Police spokesperson, Acting Superintendent Michaelfield, the cause of the lockouts is unknown. Police have identified at least one person that was at the controls of the vehicle that struck the pedestrian mall, but the exact motives of the person or persons who caused the rampage is still not known. It is believed that the person operating the car intentionally ran into the numerous businesses in the vicinity in order to cause massive injuries and to flee the scene.
Victoria’s business community is reeling from this tragedy. All major businesses are closed and thousands of small businesses are either temporarily idle or shut down permanently. The effects of the lockouts on Victoria’s economy are yet to be assessed. However, many in the industry are expressing concern over the potential impact this event could have on Melbourne’s property market, given the ongoing problems that have been plaguing the real estate market over the last year or so.
One of the major concerns over the weekend is the effect this could have on Victoria’s already struggling construction industry. Many large construction projects have been impacted by the massive crowd of people entering the city all at once. The Victoria State Police has advised that all road closures have now been lifted, and all but one of the major shopping centres in the CBD are now open again. However, the impact this has on the construction industry is enormous, given the high number of jobs lost in such a small period of time.
Other industries have also suffered. All major supermarkets have suspended operations across the city, and all major businesses have either reduced staff numbers or laid off staff. As well, Victoria Police has confirmed that all roads surrounding the CBD have now been closed. This includes the Princes Bridge Road, which leads into the CBD and is one of the city’s key traffic arteries. The closure of these key thoroughfares has a dire impact on businesses, as well as on commuters.
Lockdowns affect everyone in the region. Trains and buses are stopped and passengers are directed to exit the area. Tourists are kept away from the areas, and businesses are forced to close. The lockout has affected travel in the city, with people unable to get from the airport to downtown Victoria. It is believed that up to one million Victorians are relying on public transport to get to work and home during the closures.
The latest lockdown comes at a time when Victoria’s economy is suffering as a result of the Global Financial Recession. Although it appears that Victoria’s recovery is slowly coming to terms with the recession, the past few weeks have seen a number of major downfalls in the state’s economy. The uncertainty that the Lockout has caused is proving difficult for businesses, with many businesses now struggling to survive. Victoria’s Premier John Brumby has been touring Victoria, meeting with business owners to find solutions to the current economic crisis.