The full interview, also including Sally McManus, Secretary, ACTU and Dr Richard Denniss, Chief Economist, Australia Institute, is available here:
Radio National Breakfast: What needs to happen to protect the economy and your jobs?

(Comments relating to state border confusion and union discussions)

"One point here I will make Fran, very loud and clear, is that we all recognise that governments are trying to do the right thing. But there is a lot of chaos and a lot of confusion at our state borders at the moment as state governments implement different measures around the movement of people and movement of goods. They (the rules) are different from state to state and they are almost being made up as they go along. Some states are letting freight through others are... leaving it up to police officers to decide what is essential or not.

"It is incredibly important, and I cannot stress this enough, we have to have continuity around what is happening at our state borders to allow the movement of goods to occur. Once we stop moving goods then our economy will atrophy very quickly. It is essential to get this right. Businesses are totally confused at the moment trying to figure out what they can and can’t do."

(Question on government wages assistance and unions)

"Well there's a range of measures the governments are going to have to look at and I’ll make two very quick points, Fran. One is that we've made it very clear to government that the assistance for small businesses is good at the moment and appropriate but it's inevitable that that is going to extend in one way or another to bigger businesses so that they can keep their supply chains alive. And that's the crucial thing here. We've always said the economy is interconnected. It's crucial that bigger businesses have the supports they need as well.

"The second point I would make, and Sally (McManus) will probably want to elaborate on this, is that we have been having very good conversations with the ACTU and unions around... and I know Sally hates the word flexibility but I’ll use it…trying to get more flexibility into the award system on a temporary basis so that employers can have the ability to keep more people at work through this period. And look, there is a lot of good work being done there. We are not quite done yet but I think all the signs from the conversations yesterday are that we will get there. But it is essential that we have measures which are temporary – whether that be for six or twelve months – which are balanced to get us through this. And we are close to that so that cooperation is fantastic."

(Comments on opportunities and move to self-reliance by local manufacturing)

"There are opportunities out there at the moment, to be honest, businesses are trying to hang on to what they've got where they can. Because they know once they lose skills and once they lose staff it's very hard to get that back. The other point I'd make here Fran is that one day when this is over business won't just return to normal the next day. It's going to take time for business to get up and running again to be in a position to pay bills, to pay landlords, to pay creditors, so whatever assistance is in place has got to last three to six months longer than this…"

(Could this kick-start a renaissance in local manufacturing?)

"I think there were signs of that occurring when China was in the deepest part of its difficulties. You were seeing a lot of moves towards on-shoring, re-shoring here. I think this has exposed more than anything the fragility of parts of the economy and my prediction will be that post this there will be a significant push towards doing more back in Australia while keeping important import and supply lines open. But overall I think self-reliance will become more of a mantra."

Innes Willox, Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group
 

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