The founder of Jim’s Mowing, David Penman, has been met with fury on social media after he encouraged his Victorian franchisees to continue operating despite COVID-19 restrictions. Penman claimed mowing lawns was a safe activity and that he’d pay contractor’s fines if they were caught out.
Dozens of services were prohibited from operating as of Wednesday under Victoria’s newly-implemented ‘State of Disaster’.
Announcing the new restrictions, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews declared on Monday: “there will be no cleaners, there will be no mowing your lawns”.
Penman drew scrutiny from Victoria Police when he responded by offering to pay any fines issued to his franchisees if they charged with flouting the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Police Commissioner Shane Patton told ABC News Breakfast that it was “disappointing to hear someone saying they’re going to deliberately flaunt the directions”.
But in an interview on Wednesday, Penman claimed the Premier had contradicted the advice of the Victorian Health Department.
He said that gardening and maintenance services were allowed to continue under metropolitan Melbourne’s stage four lockdown.
“Our message is that we should do everything we can to support the government in controlling this virus,” Penman told ABC News Breakfast.
“If we’re told to shut down and the guidelines change, we will. But let the Premier say what he means. If he really means for us to shut down, then change the guidelines,” he said.
Penman insisted that “there is 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 said.
Premier Daniel Andrews responded in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon by declaring that Jim’s Mowing was a non-essential service.
“They are not permitted workers,” Andrews 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 any way wanting to diminish the pain and challenge for that business and those workers,” he added.
Social media outrage
Penman’s interview drew intense backlash on social media, with some users claiming that as a result of the comments, they’d stop hiring Jim’s Mowing services.
“If I had a Jim’s Mowing arrangement I’d cancel it now and switch to a local service provider as soon as I’m able. This bloke is a selfish flog,” one person wrote on Twitter.
But others claimed they wouldn’t be boycotting the company solely based on the comments of its founder.
“I get a local Jim's Mowing franchisee to come in and tidy up my place. Since Covid19 began he's done all he can to observe social distancing, including isolating and testing when a selfish POS exposed him,” one user wrote.
Another user claimed her husband was a Jim’s Mowing franchisee but he’s not “going to break the rules”.
“The safety of the citizens of Melbourne is important,” she said.
Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 8pm and 5am.
During the curfew, people in Melbourne can only leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons.
Between 5am and 8pm, people in Melbourne can leave the home for exercise, to shop for necessary goods and services, for work, for health care, or to care for a sick or elderly relative.
All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.