No: Defiant traders' group refuses levy talks

Amanda Lowen (left) pictured with other business owners opposed to the Commerce Warrnambool levy. Ms Lowen says the Warrnambool Traders Action Group isn't prepared to meet with Commerce Warrnambool to discuss the levy. Picture:ROB GUNSTONE

Amanda Lowen (left) pictured with other business owners opposed to the Commerce Warrnambool levy. Ms Lowen says the Warrnambool Traders Action Group isn't prepared to meet with Commerce Warrnambool to discuss the levy. Picture:ROB GUNSTONE

A REPRESENTATIVE of the Warrnambool Trader’s Action Group (WTAG) said the group does not want to meet with Commerce Warrnambool to discuss a proposed business levy or suggest ways to promote or encourage Warrnambool businesses — they just want to say “no”.

As the battle over the proposed levy continued, Amanda Lowen, a local business owner and an administrator on WTAG’s Facebook page, said it was up to individual businesses if they wanted to meet with representatives from Commerce Warrnambool.

“There are people in the business community meeting with Commerce Warrnambool tomorrow,” Mrs Lowen said.

Commerce Warrnambool president Tony Herbert said there was an open invitation to business owners opposed to the levy to meet with Commerce Warrnambool and discuss the matter.

But Mrs Lowen said it was not the role of the group to organise a meeting with Commerce Warrnambool to discuss the levy or alternative strategies for promoting local businesses. 

“If Commerce Warrnambool want to run a public forum, that’s their decision,” she said.

“We’re just here so that people are aware they can object to the levy.”

Mrs Lowen said she had “no comment” on whether the group had any ideas for promoting Warrnambool businesses, saying it was “not our position” to offer alternatives. “Our focus is just to say ‘no’,” she said.

Asked if the group would use its groundswell of support to turn a negative reaction into a positive alternative, Mrs Lowen said the group was “not negative”.

“We’re very supportive of each other,” she said.

“We feel our group is very positive. We’re just here to say ‘no’ because we feel that stance is best for businesses at this time.”

Mrs Lowen refused to discuss why Commerce Warrnambool posts on the action group’s Facebook page featuring links to the CW website were deleted, instead deciding to end the interview.

Mr Herbert said Commerce Warrnambool wanted to keep the discussion about what can be done and not just what can’t be done.

“We’ve got absolutely nothing to hide — we’d love to hear what they’ve got to say,” he said.

“We’d love to see what their plans are. We know they probably haven’t got a great deal, but we want to keep the conversation positive.

“I’m sure no one disagrees that a chamber of commerce would be a good thing for Warrnambool, but they don’t want to pay for it.”

He said he had met with some business owners opposed to the levy already.

“I’ve met with a couple of people because they called up and asked me and been proactive about wanting to hear our side of the story rather than what they see in the paper or hear in the radio or see on Facebook.”

Mr Herbert’s open invitation mirrors a call made by prominent Warrnambool businesswoman Raelene Ponting, who said although she was opposed to the levy, she believed both Commerce Warrnambool and WTAG needed to sit down and discuss the matter before it divided the business community further.

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