Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has hit back at the millionaire founder of Jim’s Mowing after he told his workers to ignore Melbourne’s lockdown laws.
Mr Andrews said on Tuesday that lawn-mowing businesses are among the list of businesses banned from operating during the strict six-week lockdown.
‘There’ll be no cleaners going to your house … there’ll be no-one mowing your lawns. There’ll be no-one providing anything, other than emergency support,’ he said.
The premier’s cutting remarks come after self-made millionaire David Penman, who founded Jim’s Mowing, said he would continue mowing lawns and even offered to pay the fines of any of his contractors who get caught out flouting the laws.
Mr Andrews shot the business owner down during his press conference on Wednesday.
‘They are not permitted workers unless, of course, they were providing emergency urgent work. For instance, if a tree fell, then they might be able to go and do that work,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘But I’m afraid lawns are not getting mowed, people are not getting haircuts.’
Premier Andrews said he ‘took no pleasure’ in shutting down businesses to curb the spread of coronavirus.
‘(If I said yes to) everyone who had an emotional, powerful, well-argued case, then we would have more people at work in August than we had last month, even under stage three,’ the premier said.
‘If I don’t make these decisions… we won’t drive down the number of cases and, indeed, the number of people who are dying.’
Mr Penman argued that there was ‘nothing more safe than going out and mowing lawns’.
‘If you throw tens of thousands of Australians out of work and they all go home, what are they going to do? They’re going to go down the bottle shop,’ he told ABC News Breakfast.
‘You don’t have contact with the public, we have electronic payments, you’re not seeing people, you’re not with people, you’re not near people.
‘Our people travel by car from one job to another. There’s no reason for them to come within 10 metres of any member of the public in what they’re doing. So there’s no lack of safety.’
Mr Penman – who calls himself an ‘accidental millionaire’ – said the premier was making the rules confusing.
He claimed Mr Andrews’ advice goes against department of health guidelines, and suggested the government ‘change the guidelines’ to avoid giving two conflicting messages.
The Stage Four guidelines allow for grounds maintenance businesses to keep operating if there’s a COVID Safe plan in place.
But that only applies as long as the businesses are ‘providing support to an essential industry or where required to maintain the health and safety of Victorians at home or at work’.
Victoria Police Commissioner Shane Patton said it was ‘disappointing’ to hear that someone planned to deliberately flaunt the directions.
‘We’ll deal with every incident on a case-by-case basis when we become alerted to it through the police assistance line,’ he said.
Jim’s Mowing is a thriving business with 55 different divisions in both Australia and New Zealand, 4,000 franchisees and 35,000 customers per day.
Mr Penman founded the company in 1982 after giving up his dream of becoming an academic.