Australia CBA says business needs more clarity to ‘police' vaccines

06:26  27 september  2021
06:26  27 september  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

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Australia's largest bank says small business owners are still facing unanswered questions about how to safely reopen their doors as the vaccination targets to end lockdowns rapidly approach in major cities.

The New South Wales and Victorian governments have both launched roadmaps for reopening that rely on vaccine passports to be used to allow customers to enter businesses in a range of industries, such as hospitality and retail.

The federal government has insisted vaccination is voluntary in Australia and has put the onus on individual businesses to develop policies around mandating jabs for staff and customers.

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The Commonwealth Bank's executive general manager for everyday business banking, James Fowles, said business owners needed more clarity around what is required of them.

"Are they going to be required to police people coming in and out of their premises? What is that going to be with the populations who are not pro-vaccines?" Mr Fowles said. "Some are thinking about the need to employ security at the door, to check check-ins and vaccination passports."

Melbourne was rocked by violent protests last week amid civil unrest over the introduction of mandatory vaccines for the construction sector, prompting fears of further clashes between small business owners and customers if jabs are required for entry.

"Until there's certainty around what will be required, and who is responsible, I think the uncertainty remains," Mr Fowles said.

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Businesswoman Sophie Froidevaux, owner of Aptitude Fitness Centre on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, said many businesses were confused about what their obligations would be when they were able to fully reopen.

"Mandating whether people have to be vaccinated or not, how's that going to be policed or enforced?," she said.

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Ms Froidevaux said she did not want to discriminate and if she would not require people to be vaccinated to attend her gym unless legally required to do so.

"Why would I turn away somebody that is choosing not to be vaccinated?," she said. "That's their choice, that's not my business."

Another business owner, Renee Wallace, who runs Birch Restaurant in the Central Highlands in New South Wales, said she had already introduced requirements on the restaurant's booking page which asked diners to acknowledge that they were double vaccinated before the booking could proceed.

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"We can't open the doors to guests who are not double vaccinated, that's a public health order," she said. "At the end of the day we would prefer our doors to be open rather than closed."

Ms Wallace said the new bookings system opened on Saturday night and she had been "inundated" with bookings without any complaints about the vaccination requirements.

"I feel that those places that are taking those extra precautions and are quite transparent about them will probably see a lot higher demand because I think people want more confidence in what they're doing," she said.

CBA, the country's largest consumer bank, has launched a number of initiatives to claw market share from the lucrative business lending sector from the other majors. Last week, it introduced a 1.1 per cent flat rate for merchant processing payments in-store and 1.5 per cent for online transactions.

Mr Fowles said setting the flat rate will cost CBA around $10 million per year in foregone revenue, but it will help attract new customers as the previous offering was too complex and taken up by less than 3 per cent of the bank's 83,000 eligible customers.

"Competition is rife in this sector. There are lots of new entrants, new players," Mr Fowles said.

CBA's merchant solutions general manager Karen Last said the bank had also analysed the revenue patterns of around 50,000 merchants to offer fee waivers to customers that were struggling with the extended lockdowns. Ms Last said it was simplistic to view entire industries as under strain, as there were some winners among the hard-hit industries from the pandemic.

"My coffee shop near my home is doing excellent trade at the moment," Ms Last said. "Whereas, the coffee shop in our office building has been shut down for months now.

"We are seeing broad impacts, taking an industry view is blunt."

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