Influential businessman James Neville Smith said he fell ill with COVID-19 — but dismissed it as “nothing more than man flu”.
Influential businessman James Neville Smith said he fell ill with COVID-19 — but dismissed it as “nothing more than man flu”.

‘Man flu’ millionaire pleads to socialise

An influential Melbourne millionaire who had COVID-19 and says it was "nothing more than man flu" is demanding the Mornington Peninsula be released from lockdown.

Prominent Australian businessmen James Neville Smith has shared a petition which calls for the peninsula to be excluded from the lockdown because it prevents "families and friends from responsibly socialising".

In March, his wife Katey - who also shared the petition - addressed reports about a Geelong Grammar cocktail party in Toorak linked to the elite "Aspen ski set" and a coronavirus outbreak, saying they were "a beat up".

"This virus is so contagious that if someone had it at the cocktail party, I'm not surprised a few of us caught it there," she posted on social media at the time.

James Neville Smith with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Launceston. Picture: Chris Kidd
James Neville Smith with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Launceston. Picture: Chris Kidd

Ms Neville Smith later shared photos of the family, including children, sitting around a dining table being tested by a masked medico with the words: "Who has the antibodies. 2X positive (March) 1X negative (March) 1X mild cold (March), 2 X no symptoms but all living under one roof."

The Change.org petition claims the coronavirus lockdown would put undue pressure on Mornington Peninsula parents forced to homeschool their kids, lead to more local business closures, take a toll on the mental health of residents and potentially expose them to more coronavirus risks.

The executive chairman of timber company Neville Smith Forest Products (NSFP) and owner of an exclusive Queensland beach resort, Mr Neville Smith told theSunday Herald Sun he had experienced COVID-19.

"I had it and I'm 100 per cent recovered and fit as a fiddle. I appreciate it's not pleasant but it was a flu for me, nothing more than a man flu," Mr Neville Smith said.

The Flinders resident and Geelong Grammar alumni, who has rubbed shoulders with prime ministers, said he had signed and circulated the petition for the sake of local businesses.

 

James Neville Smith owns the Castaways resort in Mission Beach, Queensland. Picture: Supplied
James Neville Smith owns the Castaways resort in Mission Beach, Queensland. Picture: Supplied

 

"My reasoning is … the case numbers (on the Mornington Peninsula) are very low and I'm very worried about local business … I appreciate that there are others who want the whole place locked down but I am very concerned about the economic impact of all these lockdowns," he said.

"I think it's rough on small business which has just got itself going again."

Mr Neville Smith's businesses include one of Australia's biggest hardwood processing companies, which mills Tasmanian oak for flooring, and one of North Queensland's biggest resorts, the Castaways Resort and Spa in Mission Beach.

In 2018, the family announced it planned to spend $70 million rebuilding the resort.

Trumpeting the news, Queensland politician Bob Katter described Mr Neville Smith as "one of the more prominent businessmen in Australia".

Nearly 6000 people had signed the petition to exclude the Mornington Peninsula from lockdown by Friday night.

Originally published as Mornington 'man flu' millionaire pleads to socialise

The exclusive resort underwent a massive $70 million transformation. Picture: Supplied
The exclusive resort underwent a massive $70 million transformation. Picture: Supplied

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