"Over recent weeks, the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has stolen the show in leading NSW and the rest of the country to a more hopeful living with COVID path,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

"The Premier has managed to shift the focus of the national conversation away from case numbers and restrictions towards vaccination rates and 'freedoms'. This shift has created a sense of hope and optimism tempered with realism in NSW that other states and territories should consider replicating.

"Suddenly, and almost seamlessly, NSW is looking at numbers that it is happy to see accelerating: single and double vax percentages.

"This change in focus to vaccination numbers and the thresholds that will usher in a concrete unwinding of restrictions is a game changer that gave substance to National Cabinet’s in‑principle Pathway.  Industry and the community now have a clear and certain path forward.

"What this now means is that we are at the point where we can shift focus further towards answering some of the questions that have to date been too hard.  Employers, employees, and the broader community need clarity from our political leaders on the remaining big issues including:

  • Can substance be added to the plan to open our international borders?
  • What happens if there is a positive case in a workplace?  What will governments require employers to do?  Where will the line be drawn on defining what actions need to be taken by employers if there is close contact in a workplace versus a casual contact?  The answers need to be framed in such a way that keeps sites and businesses open and makes closing down a last resort.
  • Where governments require that entry to a business can only be for the double vaccinated, how will that work in practice?  How will a 16-year-old shop assistant stop an unvaccinated customer from going into a shop or café?  Will employers and their staff become police?  How can businesses treat staff who decline to be vaccinated?

"As we move into the later stages of the NSW and Victorian reopening plans, other jurisdictions will need to step up to the mark and put forward detailed steps back towards normality.  As difficult as it will be, Queensland’s economic connections with the rest of the east coast mean that it cannot stay in economic and social hibernation for long.  Western Australia will return to the fold at a different time but it cannot stay locked away from the world forever.

"The sooner we can reunite the nation and the national economy, the sooner we can get our lives back, go on holidays and visit friends and families, gradually return to the office and workplaces generally and, for our economic well-being, to get our businesses back to operating at full tilt," Mr Willox said.

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