Jennifer Westacott interview with Annelise Nielsen, AM Agenda, Sky News

27 April 2020

Event: Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott interview with Annelise Nielsen, AM Agenda, Sky News

Speakers: Annelise Nielsen, Jennifer Westacott

Topics: COVID-19 economic modelling, skills, COVIDSafe app 


Annelise Nielsen, host Sky News: Joining us live now is Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the Business Council of Australia. Jennifer Westacott thank you for your time.

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia: Thanks very much.

Annelise: Now you're making sure older Australians aren't forgotten in this push to reinvigorate the economy?

Jennifer: Yeah look, our analysis that we've released the today shows that before the government's assistance about 40 per cent of those people who have become unemployed are at risk of staying unemployed. And they are the same people who were unemployed or never got back into the workforce after the 1990s recession. So we want to make sure, that as part of our recovery, we really target those high-risk people. People who are over 55, people with low skills, and make sure that our skills system helps people get those new skills that they can get back into work. Well that's obviously part of our recovery initiative but we've got to make sure that those people who are at risk, very young people, we've got very high youth unemployment, and older people who've got limited skills, we get those people back into the workforce.

Annelise: I don't think anyone would disagree with the idea but how do you practically do that? Especially when we are going to need a lot of agility. And the outcome of this, people are going to have to adapt to perhaps different jobs than they had before the coronavirus pandemic. And if you are older and more qualified that's harder to do.

Jennifer: Well older and less qualified I think. The challenge is this, first of all we've got to get the country going again and we've got to get business back on their feet. That's part of the work that we've released today is the importance of doing that. Obviously with health at the front and centre of that. But look, one of the things we've talked about today is our skills system. It's too clunky. It takes too long. We should be able to get people to do modules of training, that actually are a credential, that they can then retrain quickly. Particularly in those digital and technology spaces. So that's one really important thing as well as, of course, encouraging employers to continue to keep older people on and to make sure that they bring on or hirer new or older people. We've got to have a really concerted push here. But one big thing we can do is fix our skills system. It just takes too long for people to get qualified.

Annelise: And the government has introduced its COVIDSafe app to help with contact tracing. Will you be downloading it and are you encouraging others to do the same?

Jennifer: I've already downloaded the app, first thing this morning, and we will be encouraging our employers around the country to encourage their teams to upload the app. I mean put it this way, it's very simple this, if I have contracted the virus and I volunteer, I give consent, that information can be passed on to people who have got the app and were in 1.5 metres contact with me for 15 minutes, I want those people to know. And I think it will make our workplaces safer. I think it will allow us to get on with our lives, as well as greater levels of testing, and of course the application of standards across industry to keep our customers, our teams safe, to keep our communities safe. It's not just the app, it's the app in combination. But I'm really encouraging all Australians to get onto the app because it will make us safer and we'll get our lives back faster.

Annelise: Right now businesses aren't allowed to require that their employees download the app to come back to work or change any of those work distancing rules, do you support that?

Jennifer: Look I think that's absolutely right. The whole point of this app is that it's voluntary. It's a consent-based system. So I think it can't be used to require people to come back to work. But what it can be used for, and this is very important, if I've tested positive, people will know. So somebody in a workplace will get an alert from the health authority saying you need to get tested, you need to quarantine, and that's very important. We've seen the big companies being incredibly flexible about letting people take leave or getting them to work from home. That's why the app is going to be so important. It's that it will allow people to keep workplaces safer, to keep public areas safer. So, that's why I'm really encouraging everyone to get onto the app and for employers to encourage their teams to use the app.

Annelise: There's certainly already been a very high uptake of the app so far.

Jennifer: Which is fantastic.

Annelise: Jennifer Westacott from the Business Council of Australia, thank you for your time.

Jennifer: You're very welcome thank you.



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