"The long-awaited inquiry into Australia's response to COVID is an opportunity to better understand both what governments did right and what they did wrong during the pandemic," Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.
"It is welcome that the terms of reference include a review of the responsibilities of state and territory governments and national governance mechanisms, such as National Cabinet. However, it is difficult to rationalise this against the specific exclusion from the scope of the inquiry of 'actions taken unilaterally by state and territory governments'.
"If the purpose of the Commonwealth Inquiry is to identify lessons learned to improve Australia's preparedness for future pandemics, then excluding unilateral state actions is a major oversight to say the least.
"While this inquiry is at one level very welcome, it falls short of the root and branch review that is required to ensure that governments work cohesively and respond holistically during the next inevitable pandemic.
"We need a better understanding of the impacts on communities and business of some of the longest and most damaging lockdowns in the world and of the unilateral and damaging actions of states to lock down everything from buildings and suburbs to entire states. If we don’t come to grips with the consequences of those actions we ignore the impacts across our community.
"More than four years from the pandemic's onset, we are still feeling the effects of the COVID response on our economy. Any truly meaningful inquiry should give health and the economy equal footing.
"The narrow focus of the inquiry will no doubt add to our knowledge of what was most effective from a health perspective but ignoring the wider implications of state actions for the economy, business and the community will leave us destined to repeat the same mistakes," Mr Willox said.
Tony Melville – 0419 190 347