Small business groups urge states to reach consensus over COVID-19 reopening plan

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Source: AAP/Darren England.

Small business groups say clashes between the state and federal governments over the national reopening plan is shortsighted and shows disregard for the role small businesses will play in rebuilding the economy.

State premiers in Queensland and Western Australia have argued against following the federal governments’ national plan to transition out of COVID-19, despite having previously agreed to it.

Under the plan, domestic travel for vaccinated Australians would restart after 70% of the overall population has been vaccinated, with international travel resuming when the 80% milestone has been met.

Alexi Boyd, chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA), says disagreements over the national reopening plan is affecting businesses’ ability to plan for the rest of the year.

“It’s very frustrating and it’s an indication of governments who are shortsighted and not recognising the value and importance that small businesses play in rebuilding the economy,” Boyd tells SmartCompany.

On Thursday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she will continue to enforce restrictions in the state after vaccination milestones have been reached, misusing modelling from the Doherty Institute to back up her claim.

Palaszczuk said that opening up at 70% vaccination could lead to 80 deaths a day, each day for six months, totalling 2240 deaths.

Federal health minister Greg Hunt hit back at Palaszczuk’s claim, arguing that those figures don’t take into account the low-level restrictions that the Doherty Institute supports.

“Selectively misusing the Doherty modelling breaches good faith and damages public confidence,” Hunt said yesterday.

Boyd says businesses across the country are relying on domestic and international borders reopening once vaccination targets have been achieved so they can access customers and improve disrupted supply chains.

“To suggest that small businesses exist in their own LGA or state is quite short sighted and shows there’s a real misunderstanding of how small businesses work,” Boyd says.

In Western Australia, Premier Mark McGowan claimed the federal government was on a “mission” to bring COVID-19 into the state.

“Why are they on this mission to bring COVID into Western Australia, to infect our public? To ensure we shut down parts of the economy?” McGowan said earlier this week.

Varying vaccination rates across the states are also affecting the country’s chances of opening up sooner, with recent data showing that WA and Queensland are on track to have 80% of over-16s fully vaccinated between November 30 and December 7.

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