An Australian bike maker plans to take on the powers that be over a hefty COVID-19-related fine of nearly $11,000.
Ryan Billszta founded Samson Cycles in his store in the northern suburbs of Melbourne and prides himself on offering competitive prices compared to multinational bicycle brands.
“The industry just isn’t backed by the big giants. It’s good to see you can try to support Australian families and everyone benefits,” Mr Billszta said from his workshop.
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The COVID-19 lockdowns have been very difficult for Mr. Billszta’s business, but he has tried to adapt with a click and collect operation.
“We wanted to make sure we did the right thing from the start, to keep everyone happy and safe,” Mr Billszta said. A topical matter.
Mr. Billszta is double vaccinated and has an approved work permit.
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It has also taken steps in-store to provide QR codes and hand sanitizer.
But none of that seemed to matter after a recent interaction with two authorized Victorian government agents who entered his store in mid-October.
“They chatted a bit and it was really nice to deal with them,” Mr. Billszta recalled.
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“They left quite amicably. Everyone was happy and we thought everything was fine.”
But “good” would soon become the key word.
Two days later, Billszta was fined $10,904 for failing to produce the COVIDSafe plan.
The COVIDSafe Plan is a government-drafted checklist of COVID-19 safety measures for small businesses.
Mr. Billszta recalls being asked about the COVIDSafe plan, but at the time he was unsure which document officers were referring to.
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“After researching after the officers left, we realized we had a COVIDSafe plan in paper form but it was in our car,” he said.
The attorney, Adam Cockayne, said authorized officers should have handled the situation differently.
“What should have happened was the authorized officer should have explained what the law was and given him the opportunity to show that he had the document or was able to produce it,” Mr. Cockayne.
According to Mr. Cockayne, this is happening in other areas of regulation.
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“In fishing, if you fish without a licence, you are committing a crime,” said Mr Cockayne.
“But the fisheries officer will say ‘we’ll give you a week to produce your license and then we’ll fine you’. The goal is not to fine people, the goal is to get people to comply with the law.”
Mr. Billszta plans to challenge the fine.
“The purpose of these rules is to keep people safe. We did that. Producing the documents on the spot doesn’t change that,” he said.
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