“We think national cabinet’s been a very good forum because it’s been quick to react, but managing the waking up is as important as managing the going to sleep,” he said.
“We need uniformity and cohesion around that and we need some certainty about the rules under which business can operate.”
Employers have complained of rapid and unpredictable changes to state rules such as the treatment of fly-in, fly-out workers at mines and checks on transport at state borders, such as between NSW and Queensland.
In one example, a change to Queensland rules meant entry passes to the state were declared void on April 11 and employers had to race to apply for new ones.
“Closing state borders in a fairly chaotic and unilateral way has only presented problems for business and the economy and workers, so the quicker we can get our economic arteries open, the quicker we can rebuild,” Mr Willox said.
While state leaders are signalling an easing of the restrictions, there is no clarity about when the border between NSW and Queensland will open to normal business traffic without the need for permits.
Restrictions on family travel across borders are likely to stay in place longer than business travel because tourism is classified as non-essential.
“I think it’s important that the easing of restrictions be done in the most co-ordinated way and national cabinet is well positioned to do that,” ACCI chief executive James Pearson said.
“If we could see a coordinated easing of restrictions across the federation, that’s something that all businesses would welcome because most business to some extent or another depend nowadays not just on local trade but on trade across regions and the country, let alone across the world.”
Some industry groups said their members were meeting the different rules without difficulty, with the Australian Logistics Council saying the controls appeared to be working smoothly.
Manufacturing Australia chief Ben Eade said his members were getting used to the differences between states and the nationwide restrictions.
“We’re focused on putting in place whatever safe systems are required,” he said.
BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the speed of the recovery would depend on how safely and quickly the restrictions were eased.
“There can be no trade-off between the health, social and economic recovery, but older workers and those with high school or below education will pay the highest cost of failure on any front,” she said.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.