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Business leaders, PM push back against lockdowns as vaccines roll out

As each state edges ever closer to hitting its vaccination targets, business leaders are pushing back against the on-again-off-again use of lockdown measures to control the public’s movement and, therefore, Covid-19 transmissibility.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said on Monday it is important state and territory leaders don’t walk away from the Prime Minister’s 4-step plan to reopen the country and rejoin its international peers.

“Australian businesses, whether they are big or small, cannot continue to deal with the what-if and maybes – that’s no way to plan the reopening of the economy,” Westacott said.

“If leaders walk away from the national reopening plan or make the targets meaningless, it will cripple community and business confidence and send a terrible signal to the rest of the world.

“The longer we stay as Fortress Australia, the slower and shallower our recovery will be as we deter foreign investment and major projects, due to the lack of skilled workers; as we put a ‘not welcome’ sign up to tourists; and as we say no to international students.”

Lockdown measures have been devastating and disrupting to business leaders across the country, with many sectors only given minimal – if any – notice before a lockdown announcement is made, and many needing to shut their operations the same day.

Westacott’s comments come after Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned state and territory leaders that they must be onboard with implementing the federal four-stage plan which was outlined and agreed upon last month.

“Once you get to 70 per cent of your country that is eligible for the vaccine and 80 per cent, the plan sets out that we have to move forward, we cannot hold back,” Morrison said, according to the ABC.

“We must adjust our mindset [around lockdown].”

Several state leaders have been pushing against the plan, withholding the right to enforce a lockdown should they think it necessary.

However, according to the ABC, Morrison has a trump card: should states refuse to move on the path to ending lockdowns, the federal government reserves the right to cut its financial support.

“I think it’s fair to say that the Prime Minister and the federal government have played a really cooperative, Team Australia kind of approach to dealing with this problem,” Government frontbencher Amanda Stoker said on Monday. “That is something that won’t be able to be sustained if the states aren’t acting in the interests of Australians.”

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