Victoria Police have warned they will crack down hard on Jim’s Mowing after its founder offered to pay any fines attracted by his franchisees caught breaching Melbourne’s Stage 4 COVID restrictions.
It remains business as usual for the lawn-mowing and gardening service, despite Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews previously saying “there will be no cleaners, there will be no mowing your lawns” under the strict shutdown that runs until mid-September.
In fact, Jim’s Mowing founder Jim Penman said business demand was so high that the business was signing up double the number of franchisees as it did this time in 2019.
“We’ve got so much work and people need jobs,” he said.
“It’s been a terrible crisis for the country and I really feel for people who have been hurt, but for Jim’s Group it’s been absolutely amazing,”
Victoria Police Commissioner Shane Patton said it was “disappointing to hear someone saying they’re going 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 told ABC News Breakfast.
“We get lots of reports of breaches in terms of mass gatherings, personal breaches. But … if that was to occur, we will take the enforcement action the public would expect us.”
But Mr Penman said he would not be flouting the stringent lockdown rules imposed on Melbourne from Thursday.
He said the rules on businesses that could stay open included household and ground maintenance, and that his workers were essential to ensure the health and safety of Victorians stuck at home.
“I would totally agree with the Police Commissioner, that nobody should flout the rules,” he said.
Mr Penman said he was following advice from Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services and slammed Mr Andrews for apparently “saying something which is against the advice of his own department”.
“There’s nothing that’s really more safe than going out and mowing lawns, for example, because 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,” he said.
“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.”
On Wednesday, Mr Andrews reiterated his view that Jim’s Mowing was not an essential service under Melbourne’s strict virus rules.
“They are not permitted workers,” he said.
“Unless, of course, they are providing emergency work. Lawns are not getting mowed, people are not getting haircuts, we are all making sacrifices. I’m not in anyway wanting to diminish the pain and challenge for that business and those workers.”
Premier Andrews said it would come a “matter for Victoria Police” if any Jim’s Mowing contractors breached public health rules.