Make Melbourne Cup Day ‘Freedom Day’, NAB chief says
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National Australia Bank’s chief executive Ross McEwan has set the day for when Victoria should open up, saying November 2 should become “Freedom Day for Victorians” and calling for more certainty around what the community can expect once vaccination targets are met.
Mr McEwan claimed 70 per cent of the Victorian population would be vaccinated within 69 days, which should trigger the removal of lockdowns in time for Melbourne Cup Day on November 2. He said there needs to be more clarity from government leaders around what each stage of reopening will look like, which would motivate more Australians to get vaccinated.
“Clarity is needed,” Mr McEwan told an online forum hosted by the Australian British Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. “When you’ve been locked down for 206 days, or whatever days we have over the last year or so, and people in New South Wales have been locked down for nine weeks, we need, ‘this is what you get when you actually get to this level’.”
NAB chief Ross McEwan says November 2 should be “Freedom Day for Victorians” as the state reaches 70 per cent vaccination.Credit:Eamon Gallagher
The United Kingdom dubbed July 19 Freedom Day as high vaccination takeup empowered Boris Johnson’s government to scrap mandatory indoor mask-wearing and social distancing. Mr McEwan called for a similar approach to be taken in Victoria and around Australia to allow life to return to normality.
“Just as other countries around the world have done. You’ve seen it in the UK, I’ve got a daughter there, a son-in-law and two little kiddies, life has just moved on. They’re off to Europe this week for 10 days. It’s like ‘come on’,” the bank chief said.
“Yes of course they are getting lots and lots of cases up there and yes, there are unfortunately deaths, but you know they’ve actually accepted that this is part of it, we’ve got our vaccinations and the country is moving.”
NAB is the country’s leading business bank and Mr McEwan said small-to-medium sized businesses, which were the “lifeblood” of the economy, needed greater certainty from the government.
“Because the danger for businesses is the unknown. Businesses don’t invest as well when you’ve got unknowns,” Mr McEwan said. “Give them the dates or the timeframes around when we’re at 70 per cent, what will we get?”
There has been disagreement between state premiers around how to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks once vaccination targets are met, which Mr McEwan said was not helpful. “The national cabinet came up with a plan, and we should stick with it. Let’s play one country, it’s called Australia.”
The big four banks have been proactive in encouraging staff to get vaccinated, but have stopped short of mandating the jab. Mr McEwan pointed to an internal staff survey that found only 10 per cent of NAB workers did not want to be vaccinated, but said these were not set views.
“I had a good chat to a chap who runs a service inside our business here who said, ‘no I don’t think I’ll get vaccinated’. I said, ‘well mate, that’s okay, but what if I told you you’re not coming into my building without a vaccination?’ He said, ‘Ross I’ll get a vaccination’.
“So I’ve moved him into the 90 per cent and that’s what we need to do, show them why we should be doing this. Most Australians will do the right thing.“
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