Event: Jenny Lambert interview with Ali Moore, ABC Radio Melbourne – ‘Mornings’ Program
Speakers: Ali Moore, Host – ABC Radio Melbourne Mornings; Jenny Lambert, Acting CEO – Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Date: 2 July 2021
Topics: International Borders, Vaccination, Travel Caps, Coronavirus
Ali Moore, Host – ABC Radio Melbourne Mornings: It’s not just individuals, people who need to travel for family reasons or their own business reasons, it’s also about businesses here in Australia needing to bring in workers. There is a whole range of skill sets that we rely on overseas workers to provide. Jenny Lambert is the acting CEO at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Jenny, good morning.
Jenny Lambert, Acting CEO – ACCI: Good morning, Ali.
Ali: So, what does business think of the push from a number of premiers to cut the cap? Let’s say from businesses point of view, it’s not a helpful thing?
Jenny: Not at all, but I mean, even from a compassionate point of view, even in terms of looking at what the way forward is, we’ve been saying for some months now that they need to think about it in terms of two caps. They need to have a cap that relates to the high-risk arrivals, the unvaccinated arrivals coming in from high-risk countries, and there needs to be another arrangement. A separate quarantine arrangement for the vaccinated travellers, the Australians returning home who be the been vaccinated here and gone overseas for compassionate reasons and come back, or those that, like your example in the US, who are trying to get back, but are fully vaccinated. They need to think about it in terms of two caps. That’s the staged way out. You know, so you’ve got vaccinated travellers, low-risk travelling coming in, those returning having been vaccinated here. They need to be in a different quarantine situation, so they are not put at risk in quarantine, but also that allows more numbers to come back.
Ali: Are you as a business between a rock and a hard place? Because on the one hand, you need to be able to bring people in, but on the other, every time there’s a lockdown because there is a leakage from our not-fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities, business suffers directly.
Jenny: Yes, we are very much wedged in the politics and the health advice which is varying. I mean let’s face it, the last week has shown more than anything else there is not one single truth in health advice. There’s a range of different advice coming in and it’s the role of governments to balance the health advice. To balance the economic benefits and risks with the health benefits and risks; and in this case, we’ve got to actually work out a staged way out. We’re saying that if you come from low-risk countries, if you’re vaccinated, if you’re tested before you leave, if you’re tested when you arrive, then you’ve got a great opportunity to have a different cap and a different arrangement for those travellers. Then you have for the high-risk unvaccinated travellers coming into the country, where I mean at the moment with the Delta variant the health authorities are quite rightly concerned, so let’s talk about having different arrangements rather than the blunt instrument of saying all travellers who arrive at the same risk therefore, we’re going to have one cap for all that. We should be past that point now. We’ve been dealing with this for over a year. We need to move on to having a more targeted approach to where the risks are greatest.
Ali: Jenny, when you look at the whole conversation around the cap it is very much connected to the percentage of the population here that is vaccinated as well. What role do you see for business, and do you think that business should have an indemnity along the lines of the one that has been given to GPs, for you to vaccinate, for you to run programs, within your own businesses?
Jenny: Well certainly the business community has been working with government for the last few months trying to work out the best way forward here. We’ve long since committed to an international program called ‘Convince’, where we encourage employers to encourage their employees to get vaccinated and certainly, we need to do that in line with government health guidelines because employers are not health advisors. They need to take that advice and encourage their employees to do it. To take the next step for employers to actually arrange vaccination programs like they do for the flu, within their own businesses, requires a range of important steps both in terms of indemnity as you’ve mentioned, but also logistics. I mean, a lot of these vaccines require enormous storage issues and delivery issues in terms of how they’re dealt with. So, there are some steps to that journey yet, but there’s a lot of things employers are ready to do now to encourage more of a population to be vaccinated. But we need to do that hand in glove with government, so the advice is consistent.
Ali: Jenny Lambert, thank you very much for talking to us.
Jenny: My pleasure.
Ali: Jenny Lambert there, the acting CEO at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.