Business leaders call on premiers to stick with National Plan

2021 goal plan action. man writes on a blue background 2021 goal plan action

A group of 80 employers around Australia including Coles Group, Woolworths Group, Wesfarmers and Scentre Group, have signed an open letter calling on state and federal leaders to follow Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s lead, and stick with the four phase National Plan to reopen the country.

“CEOs are not asking for anything more than for state and federal leaders to stick to the national reopening plan so business can begin to plan and give the country confidence that we are going to move forward,” Business Council of Australia chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, said.

The letter concedes that lockdowns have been incredibly effective at suppressing the virus, and at buying time for the country to ramp up its vaccination efforts, but that it’s becoming clear that they are also rapidly causing the onset of a mental health emergency.

“Some of the impacts of the current lockdowns are hidden, and the effects will be long lasting,” the letter reads. “As vaccination rates increase, it will become necessary to open up society and live with the virus, in the same way that other countries have done. The National Cabinet has agreed to a roadmap which provides a path out of lockdowns, with an easing of restrictions from 70 and 80 per cent vaccination rates. We need to stay the course.”

The National Plan provides a light at the end of the tunnel, the letter reads, which will encourage more Australians to get vaccinated and give something to hold on to in uncertain times.

The letter doesn’t take a wholly surprising stance, with the state and federal leaders pushing back against the plan, such as WA premier Mark McGowen and QLD premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, doing so in the interest of public health and not in the interest of opening borders and communities as soon as possible – something that would give many businesses the ability to plan for the year ahead with some confidence.

By keeping the WA border closed beyond the 70 to 80 per cent vaccination thresholds and retaining the ability to declare snap lockdowns when an outbreak occurs, McGowen argues he is acting to keep Western Australians safe, secure, and, in some cases, alive.

“I don’t want to [open our borders prematurely]. I don’t want to see people dying in nursing homes or aged care villages or disability centres or hospitals,” McGowen said.

“I don’t want to bring back harsh limits on local businesses. When it is safe to do so we will open the borders – when an overwhelming majority of our population has been vaccinated.”

Palaszczuk has pushed back against the Plan on the basis it was predicated on Australia seeing only 30 cases, not 13,000, across the country before open up, and that new modelling would need to be created to predict how NSW’s COVID crisis would change the plan – if at all.

This story first appeared on our sister publication Inside Retail.