70,000 rea­sons to have a beer

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD FER­GU­SON CRAIG JOHN­STONE

More than 70,000 jobs in NSW could be re­vived by Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian’s am­bi­tious plan to al­low gath­er­ings of up to 50 peo­ple at a time in pubs, clubs and restau­rants while other state economies re­main shack­led by oner­ous phys­i­cal-dis­tanc­ing and bor­der rules.

Busi­ness groups and for­mer lead­ers are join­ing the push for the states to re­open, with Queens­land Premier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk be­ing urged by pre­de­ces­sors Peter Beat­tie and Camp­bell New­man to loosen the Sun­shine State’s bor­der clo­sures and save jobs in the north.

For­mer Vic­to­rian Lib­eral premier Jeff Ken­nett said the re­fusal of most states to open their bor­ders was “mad­ness”. “With due re­spect to the states that still have bor­der con­trols, it’s ab­so­lutely ab­surd,’’ he said. “It’s un­nec­es­sary. It’s grand­stand­ing and it is re­duc­ing the op­por­tu­nity for their states (and) for their small-to-medium busi­nesses to get go­ing again.”

From June 1, NSW will al­low 50 peo­ple at a time in a venue, with so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules in place.

For Paris Granger and Ben McCal­lum, who popped into the Lord Nel­son pub in The Rocks, Syd­ney, on Fri­day, the 50-limit re­open­ing can’t come soon enough. “I am very so­cial and I find my­self net­work­ing quite a bit, be­ing sin­gle

and young and liv­ing in the city,” said Ms Granger, who cel­e­brated her 30th birth­day in quar­an­tine.

Mr McCal­lum, 30, said: “I’m English and none of my fam­ily are here so, for me, my fam­ily in Aus­tralia are my friends ... and I’ve not been able to see any of them for a long time.”

In­dus­try lead­ers said Ms Bere­jik­lian’s push to re­open the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor could re­vive up to 70,000 jobs. “For those who are vi­able, for those who have man­aged to hang on, we’re en­sur­ing that we can work to­gether to pro­vide that safe en­vi­ron­ment,” she said. “Things will be very dif­fer­ent … Hav­ing joint cut­lery on a ta­ble won’t be able to ex­ist any­more. A sim­ple buf­fet won’t ex­ist any­more. There will be strict guide­lines to en­sure this hap­pens safely.”

Aus­tralian Ho­tels As­so­ci­a­tion

NSW chief John Whe­lan said the 50-pa­tron limit of­fered hope to 70,500 peo­ple who had lost their liveli­hoods.

“The en­tire hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor has been hard hit by the COVID-19 cri­sis,” he said. “From June 1 we can start re-em­ploy­ing our staff and open up our ho­tels.”

Vic­to­ria does not plan to al­low 50 cus­tomers un­til June 22 and venues will re­main take­away-only till June 1. South Aus­tralia and West­ern Aus­tralia cur­rently al­low 20 peo­ple in venues. Queens­land will al­low gath­er­ings of 20 on June 12 and Tas­ma­nia will fol­low suit on June 15.

Ms Palaszczuk is now un­der pres­sure from for­mer Queens­land pre­miers on both sides to lis­ten to her NSW coun­ter­part. Mr Beat­tie, who led Queens­land from 19982007, said the state’s bor­ders needed to be opened “as soon as pos­si­ble” as part of a broader eco­nomic strat­egy for the na­tion. “We are one coun­try, af­ter all. Plus, the virus is now as un­der con­trol as much as it may ever be,” he said. “Health of­fi­cials have en­sured our hos­pi­tals now have ad­e­quate ca­pac­ity to cope.”

The for­mer La­bor leader said Queens­land, WA, SA, Tas­ma­nia, and the NT needed tourists from NSW and Vic­to­ria.

“In fact, the tourism in­dus­try in the above states and ter­ri­to­ries need NSW and Vic­to­rian tourists more than the two big states need them,” he said.

Mr New­man — Ms Palaszczuk’s LNP pre­de­ces­sor as premier — said any job losses that re­sulted from the con­tin­u­ing bor­der re­stric­tions would be­come the Premier’s re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“The Premier has dug her­self a hole and needs to climb out right now. It’s been a dis­as­trous call and a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal mis­take. I be­lieve the com­mu­nity is now look­ing for a re­open­ing of the bor­der,” he said.

Aus­tralian In­dus­try Group chief ex­ec­u­tive Innes Wil­lox said em­ploy­ers were grow­ing rest­less with the slow pace of change out­side of NSW. “This is an ex­am­ple other states who are lag­ging be­hind in the re­open­ing or who are try­ing to lock them­selves away from the rest of the coun­try should fol­low,” he said. “Busi­nesses and em­ploy­ees in other ju­ris­dic­tions who are be­ing forced to keep the shut­ters down are grow­ing in­creas­ingly rest­less and con­cerned at the eco­nomic im­pact.

“Busi­nesses are well aware of their so­cial and health obli­ga­tions. Manag­ing only for worst-case sce­nar­ios is no way to run an econ­omy which needs con­fi­dence and stim­u­lus now.”

Coun­cil of Small Busi­ness Or­gan­i­sa­tions Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Strong said the other states must re­lease health ad­vice on the costs of not re­open­ing: “We want to know one thing on the very tight so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules stay­ing — why?”

Aus­tralian Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try chief ex­ec­u­tive James Pear­son said: “We know the longer the lock­downs last, the more we will see un­em­ploy­ment lines in­crease. The hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try has been hold­ing on as long as it can … For them to sur­vive the cri­sis, we need to see more peo­ple din­ing out in greater num­bers as soon as it is safe.”

NSW still tops the na­tion in terms of active num­bers of coro­n­avirus cases, with 388 COVID-19pos­i­tive peo­ple in hos­pi­tals and the com­mu­nity, com­pared with only 12 in Queens­land and one in WA.

Ms Palaszczuk said Queens­land would not rush to re­open pubs, clubs and restau­rants as a re­sult of NSW’s de­ci­sion. “What NSW does is a mat­ter for them,” she said. “Queens­land will con­tinue to be guided by our Chief Health Of­fi­cer’s ad­vice.”

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the govern­ment would make a de­ci­sion on in­creas­ing the cus­tomer ca­pac­ity of bars and restau­rants in the com­ing weeks.

Tas­ma­nian Premier Peter Gutwein said: “Tas­ma­nia has an older and more vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion, so we won’t be rush­ing to ease our re­stric­tions in re­sponse to other states.”

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