Jennifer Westacott interview with Ros Childs, ABC News at Noon

22 October 2020

Event: Interview with Ros Childs, ABC News at Noon

Speaker: Ros Childs, host; Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia

Topics: Domestic and international border report


Ros Childs, host ABC News at Noon: The Business Council of Australia is urging state and federal leaders to announce plans for domestic travel in time for Christmas, saying it would help support 34,000 jobs across the aviation industry. Research by EY, commissioned by the Business Council, estimates that the economy is losing nearly $320 million a day in domestic and international air travel while planes are grounded. Here's Jennifer Westacott, the chief executive of the Business Council. Good afternoon Jennifer.

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia: Good afternoon.

Ros: What do you want state and federal leaders to do?

Jennifer: Well, we want them to do a few things. We want them to come up with a plan to open our domestic borders by Christmas and focus on that local containment that we know has worked very well in New South Wales, tracking and tracing has worked very effectively there, and get a national system for that. The second thing we want is a careful, gradual six-month plan to start opening our international borders, beginning with getting Australians back, who want to return to their home, getting our international students back and careful targeting of skilled workers and some other workers. We’ve got the best harvest we’ve had for a decade and farmers are telling us that they don’t have workers to pick it. And we want to see a nationally consistent quarantine approach and a very good and robust quarantine approach. I think the point we're making Ros, which is really important, is we don't want to see a free for all here. We want to see a careful, targeted, gradual reopening of our international borders, so that $320 million a day that's bleeding out of our economy stops and that the people whose jobs depend on it can come back.

Ros: So how much lead time do airlines need to get planes out of moth ball and get workers back online?

Jennifer: It's a very good question Ros, because a plane isn't like having the old car that you've had in the garage for six months and you just go on with the runway and start her up. Airlines need huge amounts of time, at least a couple of months. And that's why we're calling on national cabinet to send that direction on Friday when they meet. Because you think about all of the complexities around safety, around air routes. And similarly for the international travel, we know that many countries are starting to plan their trade routes. 80 per cent of freight leaves the country in a passenger plane. We need to at least do the planning so that when things are okay, we can start getting those international travel routes going again. Pilots have to go back in the simulator and do training. The ticketing system has to be up and running again, airlines are vital to our economy and need that time to get going again.

Ros: And your survey found that the economy is losing $319 million a day because domestic and international air travel is not happening, but we're not going to get that money back in the near term are we? Because only return to flying will be on a much-limited schedule.

Jennifer: If you've got domestic going again, EY estimates that there would be a $3 billion gift, a Christmas gift. And that's based on looking at aviation, the related industries and looking at the kind of passenger load from last year. I think that would be conservative, obviously no one is traveling overseas for their holidays. But it's about making a start. Isn't it? It's about doing the planning. It's about starting the process. It's about locking in the gains we've made. I mean, there's no doubt Australia has done a fantastic job at managing the health-related effects of COVID and the economic ones. Let's bank those gains. Let's not give up on the health protocols, but let's try and make sure we've got a carefully calibrated plan to reopen the economy.

Ros: Jennifer Westacott thank you.

Jennifer: You're very welcome. Thank you.


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