Jennifer Westacott interview with David Koch, Sunrise

30 November 2021

Event: Jennifer Westacott interview with David Koch, Sunrise
Speakers: David Koch, host Sunrise; Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia
Topics: Omicron COVID-19 variant; National Cabinet; border restrictions


David Koch, host Sunrise: Business leaders are echoing the PM's call for calm and Nick Coatsworth as well. They claim more lockdowns or restrictions can't be justified and are urging against any knee jerk reaction. Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott joins us now. Jennifer, good morning to you.

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

David: What's the major concern of business?

Jennifer: The major concern is overreaction. The major concern is knee jerk reactions, inconsistent decisions across states, going into state-wide lockdowns again. Going into the sorts of things that aren't relevant to the risk of this new strain. And that we go back to where we were, with rolling lockdowns, stop start economy. They need to know how they can plan for Christmas, how they can plan to order their stock. They need some certainty and based on what we're seeing, there's no basis to start shutting things down again.

David: It is weird, because the state premiers keep going, ‘come and visit us. It's all over.’ And then start scaring the hell out of us.

Jennifer: Exactly.

David: And you end up thinking, ‘it's just not worth it. Are we going to lose our deposit? We won’t do anything.’

Jennifer: Exactly. I think a lot of this Kochie is emotional. Just walk around the cities, a lot of businesses that are shut are small businesses. I reckon a lot of that's because people just say, ‘I can't do this anymore.’ Whether they've got the money in the bank or not, they just say ‘I can't keep doing this.’ And that's why we need to give them certainty going into Christmas. But emotionally they’re just thinking, ‘I can't do it. I can't pick up the phone again.’

David: But this is a political golden ticket isn't it? Premiers to say, ‘oh omicron's coming, I'll keep you safe.’ And really stern. And then that makes us even more hesitant to do anything. Should they be more positive and optimistic like Nick Coatsworth was?

Jennifer: They should be. And they should act on the information and the level of risk. And what we're seeing from other countries is that people don't get as sick with this. We don't know everything that we need to know. But don't overreact and don't frighten people. I do not understand why people want to frighten people. I really don't.

David: We vote for them, they're winning state elections on the basis of that fear.

Jennifer: Yeah. But that's not really a sensible thing to do. Because you're talking about a lot of old people out there. A lot of people who are very frightened, and we don't want to frighten people. We want to make sure they've got the right info, that they're taking the right precautions when they need to. But we got to give people hope and confidence as we go into Christmas.

David: So is that your message to National Cabinet?

Jennifer: My message to National Cabinet is stay calm, give people hope and confidence. And my second message is get these systems in place. Because there's a lot of letters in the Greek alphabet, and we need to plan for the fact that we're going to have lots of variations of this thing. Get the systems in place, get one nationally set of consistent systems in place and keep calm and keep the community calm.

David: That is sensible. Jennifer, hopefully the message gets through.

Jennifer: Thanks very much.


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