Event: Andrew McKellar interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News Afternoon Agenda
Speakers: Kieran Gilbert, host Sky News Afternoon Agenda; Andrew McKellar, chief executive
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Date: 8 September 2021
Topics: Rapid antigen testing, vaccine mandates, vaccination passports, COVID management
Kieran Gilbert, host Sky News Afternoon Agenda: What’s an antigen testing, rapid antigen testing? How effective can these be? I know you’ve just got back from overseas. It is being used widely in Europe and the U.S.
Andrew McKellar, chief executive Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: Well, that’s right. Absolutely. Look, we think this is something that needs to be freely and widely available, particularly as we move into the next phase. So as we approach the vaccine targets that have been set to start opening up the economy, it’s going to be much, much more important to have very fast testing, widespread testing with quick results, and that needs to be cost effective. So as we move into that next phase, this is something that we’ve really got to look at, but we’ve got to start doing it now. We’ve got to prepare now. We can’t allow a slow start like what happened with the vaccine roll out. It’s got to be quick, and it’s got to be happening now. We’ve got to be ready.
Kieran: What sort of industries would benefit most?
Andrew: Well look, I think it would be very widespread. This has an application in big business with large workforces, but it also has an application right down to small businesses, running a restaurant or a cafe or a retail store. A lot of those employers will be keen to ensure that they have confidence that their staff have been tested, that they are free, and they don’t have a problem in that regard. So I think it’s going to be something that really needs to be done in a widespread fashion across the community. It’s much more cost effective than the PCR testing. Of course, that has to remain the backbone of the testing system, but we can save money and get faster results for business and for the community.
Kieran: And we have Australian companies at the front, basically huge breakthroughs in this technology from Australian made products, so it’s a no brainer to be using it. Now what are you picking up from your membership in terms of mandating vaccines, businesses mandating vaccines for their employees? Is that something that many of your members are keen on?
Andrew: Well look, it’s something that may apply to some businesses, and obviously, we have seen situations emerging with large companies like Qantas and Virgin and Telstra announcing that that’s something that they want to apply. So particularly where you have staff that are in close proximity with members of the public or where they’re working closely together, then it may well be that employers feel that they might need to put those sorts of policies in place that they need to consult with their workforce. It’s best done in a consultative way, in a consensus driven way, but that’s a judgment that employers will have to make. And if you’re in a small business, again, like a cafe or restaurant or something like that, hospitality again, really facing the public, this will also be something that they might’ve want to consider.
Kieran: And when you talk about the consultation process, that obviously, within an organization is important to keep people in the loop, but is it your view that this is where we’re heading that the likes of vaccine certificates or passports, however you want to call it, to get into certain events, to get onto planes, to do quite a lot of things in our day to day lives will be a reality.
Andrew: Well, very much so. And I think again, business is very supportive of this. At the end of the day, the objective here is we’ve got to open the economy, we’ve got to get rid of the restriction, the most severe restrictions, domestically we’ve got to be able to get out of lock downs, we’ve got to reopen borders, we’ve got to reopen to the world. For those things to occur, yes, we have to hit the vaccine thresholds that have been set, but we will still have to have a lot of other measures in place. And I think anything we can do to encourage people to get vaccinated now, including things like vaccine passports. If you know you’re going to be able to do some things that you want to do, and you might not be able to do it if you’re not vaccinated, then that’s a big incentive. That’s all the more reason to go out and get vaccinated sooner rather than later.
Kieran: And one of those key industries is tourism, and not just international, but domestic interstate tourism to help expedite that, to know that people are safe traveling and visiting certain venues. Can you see this becoming almost a marketing opportunity for some organizations to say all our staff are fully vaccinated, we are a safe venue?
Andrew: Oh, for sure. I mean, this is going to be a key part of the equation, that people will want certainty, business wants certainty. Consumers want to know that when they go to an event, they go to a restaurant or a cafe, when they’re moving around that they are going to be as safe as possible. So I’m sure that the onus is going to be on business here to want to get into that position. It is going to be an advantage to be able to communicate in that way.
Kieran: Andrew McKellar, the new chief executive at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Thanks so much for that, Andrew. Talk to you soon.
Andrew: Thank you very much.
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