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Safe and consistent dismantling of restrictions a national priority

"As we enter the next phase in the battle against COVID-19, tomorrow’s meeting of the Prime Minister and the National Cabinet should deliver a clear roadmap to a safe and consistent lifting of restrictions and the reopening of state borders," Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group, said today.

"There are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account by our national, state and territory leaders:

  • A phased reopening of offices would have significant effect on the economy and confidence. We believe that businesses should be told that their staff who are able and willing to return to offices are free to do so but only where the offices have a COVID-19 plan in place. This could be phase one of a safe return to work and we would imagine in many circumstances around fifty percent of staff could and would be willing to return to the office in this first phase. There is no one size fits all approach to this reopening and businesses should be free to make decisions on this taking account of social distancing requirements.
  • The community should be cautiously encouraged to increase activities such as visiting family and friends and shopping, while adopting social distancing measures. The maximum gathering could be increased to at least 10, as in some other states, while maintaining a ban on large gatherings until a review.
  • Ai Group has called for the immediate opening of all state borders and removal of isolation requirements where presently in place in relation to interstate travel. These border restrictions instituted by some states have had a marked impact on many businesses. We believe that any review of the virus response should look closely at the difficulties and inconsistencies created by state actions. Responses to the virus should have related to “communities” and not 19th century borders.
  • We agree with national border closures remaining in place, and we also accept that returning overseas residents should be required to isolate.
  • In relation to intra-state travel restrictions, residents should be allowed to travel beyond their immediate area, allowing a reduction in personal restrictions.
  • In general, we believe that a return toward consistency across allstates in relation to the loosening of COVID-19 measures is important. It would be sensible to have the same relaxed provisions across all states in order to create certainty in the community’s mind as well as for business.
  • We welcome the plan for schools to open as soon as possible and parents being encouraged to send their children to school. There is great consternation amongst employees about their inability to properly school their children, and not have the time to undertake their own work. There will be great relief when they are allowed to return to school. A phased return to offices by staff will be enormously facilitated by the reopening of schools.
  • We believe that small retail premises such as pubs and clubs, cafes, lunch bars, restaurants etc could be considered for a staggered reopening which would include revised restrictions of less than 4m2 per person. It would not be back to normal but at least it would provide businesses and their supply chains with greater economic certainty, the lack of which is causing growing problems.
  • The COVID-app is gaining in popular usage.Businesses are informing their staff that downloading the COVID-tracking app will contribute significantly to the safe resumption of economic activity as soon as possible.

"Any new level of restrictions should be under constant review and further relaxations introduced as appropriate.

"With the jobs of approaching one million Australians lost we need our economy back on track as soon as practical and safe. Any delay will make the recession deeper and the recovery harder," Mr Willox said.

Media enquiries: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347