Rocky MP’s crusade to help businesses doing it tough
WHILE maintaining his social distancing, Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke had been lending a metaphorical hand to businesses doing it tough around the Rockhampton region.
Anxious to play his part in these tumultuous times where the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic looms large, Mr O'Rourke wanted to play his part in letting locals know he was there for them.
"I had a number of phone calls from business owners who were very worried about their future and I decided one of the best things I could do with my position and my platform right now was to encourage people to keep supporting these local operators," Mr O'Rourke said.
"At some point, this health crisis will pass, I just want to do all I can to make sure local businesses hang on until it's over and keep employing local workers.
"The stimulus packages from the state and federal government will be a big help, but we also need the community to do its part by buying locally and supporting local businesses - that's what this campaign is about."
Mr O'Rourkes local business support tour kicked off at The Goat on March 23 and he estimates he's visited a few dozen businesses since.
"The idea was to highlight one business a day but I'm getting so many requests from businesses to come and see them that I'm going to have to take it up to two a day," he said.
When asked how local businesses were tracking, he said it was a "mixed bag", with some going well and others "really doing it tough".
"I know a lot of businesses right now are just trying to hang on and keep their staff employed until May when they can start to access the Federal Government's JobKeeper wage subsidy," he said.
"So I'd say to everyone in our community that it's absolutely critical we support local business over the next few weeks to keep them afloat and staff employed until that assistance kicks in.
With Easter just around the corner Mr O'Rourke strongly encouraged people to stick around in town and support their local businesses.
"Now is not the time to be travelling," he warned.
Mr O'Rourke has been calling the region's senior residents to check in on them and have a chat.
"I've talked to more than a thousand people that way in the past fortnight. Most of them appreciate having someone to talk to and quite frankly I appreciate it too," he said.
"I'm someone who likes to get out and meet people and I can't do that so much at the moment so that's been a nice substitute for me.
"Most of them are doing OK - they are following the direction of the Chief Health Officer and self-isolating, though many are feeling pretty lonely because they can't see their families, they can't go to Lions Club meetings or their Bridge group and are missing that contact. A phone call helps and, hopefully, the Premier's Care Army will make a difference as well."