17/11/2021 - 10:49

Scott calls for border date

17/11/2021 - 10:49

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Drawing a line in the sand and setting a date to reopen the state’s borders will help speed up vaccinations, Wesfarmers chief executive Rob Scott has said.

Scott calls for border date
Wesfarmers chief Rob Scott. Photo: Matt Jelonek

Drawing a line in the sand and setting a date to reopen the state’s borders will help speed up vaccinations, Wesfarmers chief executive Rob Scott has said.

Mr Scott reiterated his calls for a clear date to open the state's doors at the Business News Success & Leadership event this morning.

“Here in WA we’re still working through that road map [to reopen],” Mr Scott said.

“I do worry, I think one of the big problems we have is very low double doses of vaccinations.

“There’s a real vulnerability here in Western Australia.

“In terms of double dose vaccinations, we’re 20 per cent below where NSW is.

“You can understand why the government would be cautious when there is such a severe vulnerability around vaccination rate.

“But on the other hand, what we’ve observed in other markets is you don’t really see those vaccination rates increase unless there is clarity, and there is a line in the sand.

“I would support a date, you pick a date and you really accelerate vaccinations.”

Rob Scott speaks to Business News senior editor Mark Beyer. Photo: Matt Jelonek

Within Wesfarmers, Mr Scott said the company had taken a carrot rather than stick approach, although he was comfortable with government mandates because of the legal implications for businesses.

The company’s approach has included paid leave for employees who get vaccinated.

However, new team members will need to be vaccinated before they are hired to join the business, he said.

Nationally, more than 100,000 people were vaccinated at Bunnings hubs.

Mr Scott would not be drawn on which states had managed COVID-19 the best, and said those that engaged with business were generally the top performers.

He said he understood the reasoning behind state border closures, particularly early in the pandemic. 

But he was unhappy that there was insufficient flexibility for bringing in particular staff, citing the example of a Wesfarmers risk executive unable to move to Perth from New Zealand, despite the country having no COVID-19 cases at the time.

JobKeeper

There’s been ongoing debate about the effectiveness of the federal government’s $89 billion JobKeeper program, which was designed to pay staffing costs for businesses when turnover fell by a particular amount.

However, many of the businesses that received support made a profit.

One estimate is that as much as $40 billion was wasted.

At least $2 billion of JobKeeper receipts were reported by ASX-listed companies in recent days.

Seven West was paid a total of $47 million over two years, contractor Monadelphous was given $11 million for 700 staff, and marine services contractor MMA Offshore was paid the same amount for 400 employees.

Mr Scott said only a small industrial business in Wesfarmers’ portfolio had been eligible, and it had received less than $1 million.

When the pandemic’s course started to become clearer, he ordered the money be returned.

Mr Scott said he expected Wesfarmers had been the first business in the country to repay JobKeeper, because the Australian Taxation Office had been unsure at the time how to handle the repayment.

He praised the program nonetheless, arguing it had been very effective and had moved quickly at a time of national crisis.

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