Commentary from Sandy Zubrinich, Chair, Sunshine Coast Business Council.
As Queensland prepares to further ease COVID-19 restrictions over the coming months, Sunshine Coast Business Council Chair Sandy Zubrinich is calling on the State Government to reconsider the decision for state borders to remain closed until September 2020 due to the significant impact this will have on economic recovery.
“While we don’t underestimate the continued need to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that the immediate health crisis has abated thanks to Australians responding swiftly to the measures implemented over recent months,” Ms Zubrinich said.
“We have placed our trust in our Prime Minister and his Chief Medical Officer who have guided our nation through these unprecedented times, with strong support from the National Cabinet which includes the Queensland Government. This unified approach served us well, particularly in a time of crisis.
“It is therefore disappointing that as the Federal Government prepares to shift its focus on the rebuilding of our economy, the Queensland Government is set to contradict the advice from the Federal Chief Medical Officer by delaying the opening of our state borders for up to another three months.
“We understand the need to protect Queenslanders from the pandemic, however the impact of the virus on our economy is already apparent and over a further extended period may be the nail in the coffin for many in the private sector.
“The reality is that we are not going to eradicate COVID-19 and it will remain active within the community until a vaccine is found. It is therefore a risk we need to learn how to manage collectively.
“Our hospitals have had time to prepare to respond to outbreaks — which are probable — so our priority now has to be reigniting our economy, with particular focus on sectors like tourism that have been devastated over recent months.
“We can’t forget about the 217,000 Queenslanders who are employed directly and indirectly by our tourism industry, which accounts for 9.1 per cent of all people employed in Queensland and contributes $12.8 billion directly into the state’s economy.
“While we accept that international tourism remains out of bounds for the foreseeable future, opening our state borders will bring much-needed domestic tourism to regions like the Sunshine Coast. This will not only support tourism operators directly, but also the thousands of vulnerable part-time and casual workers who have lost their jobs due to this crisis.
Add to that the state of the aviation industry and regional airports struggling to survive.
We already operate in the second worst economically performing state within Australia and that is handicap enough. It should be acknowledged that it’s the private sector that feels the brunt of these restrictions and the impact they have on their businesses, their jobs and their future, as well as on our economy.
“There comes a point where all three levels of government need to firmly focus on the economic crisis that COVID-19 has created, much in the same way as we all united to respond to the health crisis.
That time is now.”
The Sunshine Coast Business Council is the leading regional business advocacy group on the Sunshine Coast. It represents approximately 4,000 businesses through its membership, which includes key national and regional industry groups and their members as well as national and regional businesses.
For more information please visit www.scbusinesscouncil.com.au.