16/08/2021 - 14:22 pm

Restrictions destroying what is left of business confidence says Ai Group CEO

“The ever tightening state government Covid restrictions are strangling what is left of business confidence and are likely to push Australia back into recession,” said Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group.

“With around 70% of our domestic economy subjected to a variety of draconian curfews, lockdowns, border closures, enforced business closures, needing permits to operate and threats of massive fines, it is now the Australian economy that is at a true tipping point.

“Federal Treasury’s cost estimates of the impact of Covid restrictions have not changed. What we are now experiencing is very close to a nation-wide lockdown. In terms of the economic effects, we have arguably moved up to the top of the Treasury range of estimates of AU$3.2 billion per week.

“Even those businesses that are able to operate report an increasing inability to get the basic things done. Supply lines are increasingly stretched and broken, restrictions on movement are impacting on the repair and maintenance of critical infrastructure, mental health concerns among staff are becoming deep-seated, businesses are finding it harder to connect, customers are finding it more difficult to pay.

“In the past 48 hours Victoria has introduced the most savage restrictions in a year; NSW has gone into a state-wide lockdown, the Western Australian Premier has made it clear he will not abide by national agreements on possible future easing of measures; the NT has gone into lockdown; the ACT has extended its lockdown; and ‘short’ trips for residents of NSW/Queensland border towns can now take over two hours.

“We are now in Phase A of the Covid plan which is a strategy of ‘suppression’ which national cabinet is interpreting to mean zero community transmission. This is effectively an elimination strategy which is unattainable on a national basis especially with the Delta strain. Elimination will do more damage to our community and economy than any other approach.

“Federal and state governments need to find a better way to manage Covid in the community. As we have said repeatedly, the goal should be to substantially lift restrictions when everyone has the ability to get the vaccine.

“We cannot continue to go on like this. More and more employees, families and businesses will suffer and the toll on the community will be immense. We are approaching the point where the cure may be worse than the disease given the impact on job opportunities, investment and confidence.

“The longer governments persist with the blunt instrument of lockdowns, curfews, and border closures, the longer it will be before the economic recovery can start.

“It is imperative for our economy now and into the future that all our governments work together and speed up the vaccine rollout; support business to keep operating to shore up our economy; and stop trying to outdo each other with draconian measures that crush hope and aspiration,” Willox said.

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