Jennifer Westacott interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News AM Agenda

11 October 2021

Event: Jennifer Westacott interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News AM Agenda

Speakers: Laura Jayes, host Sky News AM Agenda; Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia

Date: 11 October 2021

Topics: NSW reopening; business support; BCA’s blueprint to achieve a net zero economy


Laura Jayes, host Sky News AM Agenda: Joining us now is CEO of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott. It is such a great day for businesses in New South Wales?

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia: It sure is.

Laura: It’s going to be a bit of a rocky road. I mean there’s wages issues, there’s staff shortages and supply chain issues. What should the government be doing to support these businesses all the way up to Christmas and beyond?

Jennifer: Well, there’s a few things but first of all isn’t it a great day and it’s not just a great day for business, it’s a great day for families. I hear stories that some hairdresser opened in Darlinghurst I think it was, at midnight last night and they were fully booked. But there’s a few things. First of all, we need to stay open. Of all the things that will make a difference Laura, it’s staying open. If there is any sense of state wide snap lockdowns, that’s very problematic. The second thing we need to do is keep these state borders open. The third thing is to start getting skilled workers in. Now we’ve come up with a plan that we’re working with others on including Aspen Medical, a very highly respected international medical organisation to get skilled workers into the country as quickly as possible. And we need the states to get on board with that so we can get those, whether they are the super skilled people in the ICT industry or whether they’re the highly skilled chefs. We need those people back. We obviously support the government tapering down the disaster payments so that we kind of get the right incentives for people to be able to get back to work. We will need, I think, to do a little bit more thinking about – do we need to do start up grants or something like that for small businesses because some of them, they’ve just been smashed. I mean they are completely smashed. And we need to think about the fact they don’t have any more money left, particularly in Victoria. Whatever money they had; they’ve burned it by six lockdowns. So certainty, a bit more help but what everyone says to me is, ‘I want an uninterrupted tourism season, I want people in my carpark, I want people in my restaurant.’

Laura: Yes indeed. So we want a commitment for no more lockdowns. We’ll ask Dominic Perrottet about that in about 10 minutes time.

Jennifer: Well I think the Doherty plan has always been really clear that you might have to have local containment but this state wide lockdown stuff now, having done an amazing job that governments and the community has done on the vaccine, let’s now just say, ‘okay no more state wide lockdowns.’ When we get to 80 per cent no more interstate border closures. Let’s get the international border open safely, carefully. Let’s get international students back, a huge part of the economy. Let’s get skilled workers back, let’s get going again.

Laura: Yes, we want to going and I’ll be doing my bits: standing up drinking, dancing outside, whatever it is, getting a haircut. Now it’s time to all go out and do it. Let’s talk emissions though. This is a huge pivot from the BCA from two years ago where you warned that such ambition would be economy destroying. What has fundamentally changed in that time?

Jennifer: Well, the facts have changed. The facts have changed. And the first thing to say is that we’ve put out a comprehensive plan. We spent two years working on this. We’ve modelled it in a macro sense, we’ve modelled it sector-by-sector, we’ve worked with all of the big players in this system. Whether they are the retailers, the generators, the big miners, the big manufacturers. And we've said, ‘what's going to work?’ So the first thing to say is we've got a very detailed plan. But secondly, things have changed. The first thing is that three years ago energy prices were going through the roof and now they've stabilised. In fact, they've gone down. And we know that new renewable is cheaper than new coal. Secondly, the markets have moved, over 50 per cent of the ASX is committed to net zero targets. Businesses are moving dramatically. You've got giant companies like BP and Shell committing to net zero. You've got companies like Fortescue Metals, you've got Rio Tinto, BHP, BlueScope - all reducing their emissions at a really rapid pace. The third thing that's changed is three years ago, the US had pulled out of Paris, and now they back in but they're back in with a higher target. Japan has got a higher target. Canada has got a higher target. And we have always said you've got to calibrate with what the rest of the world is doing. We've now got a technology roadmap; we didn't have one of those before. That sets out bit by bit where those technologies are going to be. You've got a new IPCC report, which is done every six years, which has dramatically changed the assumptions about the time that we've got to reduce our emissions to avoid the dangerous impacts of climate. So the facts have changed dramatically and when the facts change you need to change. But you also need to have a plan and that's what we've put forward - a comprehensive plan to do this.

Laura: Okay, the facts may have changed, but have they really changed all that dramatically from two years ago? Because the science certainly hasn't changed. So, I mean, could you not have predicted that this is where business has been heading, whether it be the banks, whether it be investors, they're all heading in this direction? When Bill Shorten, you know pledged great targets at the last election weren’t they?

Jennifer: But a target isn’t a plan, we’ve got a plan. Business at that time…

Laura: Which Angus Taylor has come out straight away and said, ‘is equivalent to price on carbon, a carbon tax.’ So where does that leave us?

Jennifer:  Let's be super clear, everything in our plan is the government's own architecture, everything. So the technology roadmap, the use of budgets and the safeguard mechanism, which is what he's talking about. Which was a mechanism brought in by Tony Abbott, when he was Prime Minister, it's a clever mechanism, it puts a cap on emissions. And we're saying, we agree with the government, you've got to do this through technology. But you've got to change the incentives to drive that technology. And the safeguard mechanism is a really effective way of doing that. So we’re saying, expand it to cover more companies. Gradually, carefully change the baseline so that we send that technology signal to bring forward investment in those harder to abate sectors.  So our plan is basically saying use the government's existing mechanism to drive those new technologies, to bring forward the early action. The safeguard mechanism which has been well-used by business now, well-respected mechanism. That's the government’s mechanism. And the point is, if we want to get this done through technology and we don't send some kind of signal or take too long, if we take too long we add a lot of risk later on. And we run the risk that we lose the opportunity to create those new industries and those new jobs to other countries.

Laura: Okay, it is a big day, Jennifer Westacott. We've got to leave it there. We'll speak to you soon though.

Jennifer: Thanks very much Laura.


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