Event: Andrew McKellar interview with Karl Stefanovic, The Today Show
Speakers: Karl Stefanovic, host The Today Show; Andrew McKellar, chief executive Australian
Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Date: 8 September 2021
Topics: Rapid antigen testing, vaccine mandates, vaccination passports, COVID management
Karl Stefanovic, host The Today Show: Well, there are growing calls for rapid antigen testing to be rolled out at work sites and office buildings across the country. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is spearheading the campaign and CEO, Andrew McKellar joins us now from Canberra. Good morning to you. Thanks for your time this morning. Why do you want to see the extra layer of protection at workplaces exactly?
Andrew McKellar, chief executive Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: Well, good morning, Karl. And indeed, look, what we want to see is the much wider availability of this rapid testing, make it freely and widely available. It’s an important step as we look to reopen, to get back to business, to get people back to work, people back into the schools. So we think it’s something that needs to happen very quickly.
Karl: Let’s talk about specifics of how it would work. Would employees need to get tested every day, even if they are vaccinated?
Andrew: This rapid testing works well when you do it on mass. So, as you’re looking to do it in the businesses or make it available for people to take home and do it, it’s something that they can do every two or three days as required. But it’s an important step in making sure that we understand what’s happening out there in the community. It’s much more cost effective than doing the long-term testing, the PCR testing. Sometimes you have to wait five or six hours to get a test and it can take 24 hours or more to get a result.
Karl: It’s okay for larger businesses, I guess, when you say on that mass level, but what are small businesses supposed to do?
Andrew: That’s why it’s important that this is made freely available, so the government can meet the cost for this. At the moment, they’re paying about $80 for every PCR test that’s done. These tests only cost five or $10. So at the moment, it’s costing something like $2 billion a week while we have states in lockdown. This will save money.
Karl: We’ve also seen some big businesses like Qantas, Telstra come out and mandatory vaccines for front people inside those workplaces. Where are you standing on that, what are you pushing for and what’s holding it back?
Andrew: Well, look, I think here, we’ve seen some big businesses as you say, make that announcement. The critical thing going forward for smaller businesses, they need to make a decision about whether that suits their environment. So, if you’re a restaurant or cafe owner, or you’ve got a retail store where you are customer facing, if you want to protect your staff and protect your customers, you need to be able to make an informed choice about that. But equally, you need to be assured that you’re not going to face some sort of backlash. So here we think there’s more that government can do to send a signal and certainty to business about the circumstances that they’ll face.
Karl: Is that state government? Is it state government and federal government? Is it both working towards something and showing real leadership?
Andrew: Well, I think it’s both, but here I think there is a role for the federal government to step up. It needs to show leadership on this. A lot of its laws are the relevant ones. So the Fair Work Act, the Privacy Act, the Anti-Discrimination Act, all of these things have got to be clarified. So we are really looking for federal government here, to step in and send some very clear certainty or provide clear certainty to business on these issues.
Karl: That’s a tricky one for them isn’t it. Good to talk to you. Thank you for your time today.
Really appreciate it.
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