Western Australia’s government is being warned the state can’t sustain keeping its interstate border closed after recording the nation’s biggest spike in unemployment.
WA’s jobless rate jumped to a nation-high 8.1 per cent in May, up from 6.1 per cent in April, amid continued fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
The data, sourced before WA relaxed some restrictions under phase two of its recovery plan, equates to a loss of more than 30,000 jobs.
The government remains adamant its border restrictions, denying entry to anyone for non-essential reasons, will remain in place until there is no longer sustained community transmission of coronavirus in the eastern states.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief executive Chris Rodwell says there is a lack of clarity and consistency in the decisions being made and businesses need greater certainty about when the border will reopen.
“It is a complete fallacy that WA can run a closed economy for any extended period of time,” he told 6PR radio on Friday.
“We simply can’t. We absolutely rely on interstate and international trade, in fact moreso really than the other states.
“Our tourism sector simply won’t be able to operate (solely) on the local demand within the state. That just won’t work.”
Treasurer Ben Wyatt on Thursday said the government remained concerned about the prospect of a second wave of infection which could force restrictions within the state to be reintroduced and push unemployment higher.
“I look at Victoria quite closely and I note that their coronavirus community spread doesn’t appear to be any closer to being under control,” Mr Wyatt said.
“That’s really the issue here. It’s not about Western Australian community spread, it’s about what’s happening in other states.”
Any decisions on the border would need to be approved by the state’s chief health officer Andy Robertson, who has been largely absent from public view in recent weeks.
In an email to Police Commissioner Chris Dawson on May 29, Dr Robertson said he did not recommend reopening the border until community transmission in NSW, Queensland and Victoria was “substantially eliminated”.
Any reconsideration would require significant changes in the public health situation, he wrote in the correspondence which has since been tabled in parliament.