The shift to a controlled border, which offered the prospect of greater certainty to thousands of WA businesses, is undermined by mixed messages about how the rules will be applied. Reports today indicate there is no commitment by WA to grant “very low risk” status to destinations which meet the criteria outlined by the State Government on 30 October, with other unknown factors to be taken into account.
Unless decisions on borders are made on the basis of clear and transparent criteria, businesses will have little certainty in planning their investments and managing their operations.
Based on the announcement of 30 October, the key criteria in classing destinations as “very low risk” is a requirement of 28-days with no COVID-19 community transmission, after which the 14-day mandatory quarantine period is no longer required. For WA businesses, the difference between “very low risk” and “low risk” is critical. Ultimately it is the mandatory 14-day quarantine period that stifles tourism and advance bookings, disrupts supply lines, generates shortages of skilled and unskilled workers, and creates a competitive disadvantage in favour of businesses elsewhere.
A nebulous approach to applying these rules would not inspire confidence. Many businesses are simply pressing pause on key operational decisions, because border decisions appear to be more art than science.
CCIWA’s consistent position since June has been that the strict border should be in place based only on health advice, and that greater clarity on the preconditions for easing restrictions would provide some certainty and confidence to hard-hit businesses. We have also highlighted the need for a world-class testing and tracing regime, to safeguard Western Australian lives and livelihoods and to reassure the community that risks can be suitably managed to reassess the stringent 28-day rule.
We also urge WA to join the clear national roadmap agreed to by all other States. National Cabinet is the right place to advance the reintegration of the Australian economy, with a clear plan to manage risk and an outline of the public health components required to support the plan.
CCIWA will continue to strongly defend the interests of WA businesses and pursue the best conditions to enable our economy to recover.