Small businesses in Australian CBDs are struggling while most of us continue to work from home, NAB CEO Ross McEwan has said.
“Big cities are effectively closed at the moment, and this is having a massive impact on businesses, particularly small business,” Mr McEwan told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell on Friday.
“There are so many small businesses in Melbourne and in Sydney that are really struggling because there’s no one in the town.
“I saw down Chapel Street and Bridge Road… nightclubs jammed with people with no masks, yet we’re being told it’s not safe to come into the workplace.
“I know they’ve [the state governments] been trying to protect everybody, but we are well and truly vaccinated. I think we need to change to ‘if you feel safe, let’s get into work’.”
The future’s bright
While acknowledging the challenges, Mr McEwan also expressed optimism about the economic recovery.
“We had a quieter start to January, but the latter part of January into the early part of February has been very, very strong,” he said during his radio interview.
“There’s still good growth in this Australian marketplace but, some businesses, particularly the city ones we’ve talked about, are really hurting. But overall, Australia’s growing and it’s showing through in our business banking numbers.”
Open up to fix the staff shortage
Addressing the issue of staff shortages, Mr McEwan said focus must remain on getting students and migrants back into Australia.
“Every business needs people to work for them and that’s the biggest complaint I’m hearing from our customers: ‘I’m struggling to get people to work’,” he said.
Before the Omicron wave, NAB was planning to welcome the majority of its colleagues back to the office from January. Mr McEwan said businesses, including NAB, were waiting to hear exactly when work from home advice will change so they could plan for the year ahead.