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Closed Australian Borders Put Economic Edge At Risk

HSBC Australia's chief executive says it's critical to set out a clear pathway to reopening the country's international borders.

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s economic edge could be lost if international borders are not reopened in the next few years, a banking boss says.

But HSBC Australia chief executive Kaber Mclean has stressed it’s not a “doom and gloom scenario”, rather the difference between a “positive” and “very positive” economic outlook.

He described Australia’s border and containment approach as “something of an experiment” to a federal parliamentary economics committee on July 1.

While the country had successfully moderated its net migration over a long period, a total halt over three or more years would have consequences.

“The benefits of being an island with well-controlled borders and effective containment policies, those benefits are upfront. But the longer-term economic consequences come towards the end, Mclean said.

People are seen dressing in personal protective equipment outside the international departures terminal at Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne, March 13, 2020. (James Ross/AAP Image)

He said setting out a clear pathway to international border reopening was “critical”.

HSBC Australia’s 2021 GDP growth forecast was just over five percent, but that did not take into account the current outbreaks.

“This isn’t a doom and gloom scenario that we’re painting,” Mclean said.

“There’s a difference between being positive about a very strong and robust economy and being very positive about it. That’s the sort of gap we’re talking about.”

Government data showed 7.92 percent of Australians aged over 16 had been fully vaccinated by June 30.

Mclean declined an invitation to cast judgment on the country’s vaccine rollout.

HSBC Australia chief executive Kaber Mclean has stressed it’s not a “doom and gloom scenario”, rather the difference between a “positive” and “very positive” economic outlook. (Angela Brkic/AAP Image)

“It’s entirely clear Australia has managed the medical pandemic and economic response,” the bank boss said.

“Even in countries that haven’t managed the medical emergency nearly as well as Australia, they still seem to be very effective in terms of being the light at the end of the tunnel and being able to assist people to get back to some form of normality.”

Australia seemed well on track towards its target of complete vaccination by October 2021 before the rollout was undermined by internal issues like inadequacy,  and concerns over a possible link between AstraZeneca shots and rare blood clots.  Now there are efforts on state and industry levels to encourage vaccination through introducing vaccination leave entitlement.

Unions New South Wales secretary Mark Morey has called on the New South Wales government, Australia’s largest employer with a workforce of over 400,000, to take make the first move.  Meanwhile, other major employer groups have agreed to compensate employees through paid leaves or to give them unpaid leave or flexible hours to get vaccinated. This includes the Australian Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council of Australia.

(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Krishna Kakani)

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