Singapore Airlines’ decision today to permanently withdraw flights between Canberra and Singapore is indicative of the large and growing challenges the ACT faces, local business groups have warned today. They have called for ACT political leaders to commit to appointing a Minister for Business.
In the wake of the airline’s announcement, Canberra business leaders have urged all sides of politics to get on with the task of
protecting the local economy. They say more needs to be done, and done now.
“There are mounting warning signs now taking place that the ACT economy is heading into long-term damage,” Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt said today.
“Singapore Airlines have withdrawn from Canberra. We now have the third highest rate of payroll job unemployment in the country. And last week international ratings agency Standard & Poor’s supported Master Builders’ concerns that the ACT Government will probably fail to deliver about 20% of its projected infrastructure work. These are all lead indicators of looming long-term problems.
“The canary in the coalmine is singing loud and clear,” Mr Catt said.
Australian Hotels Association CEO Anthony Brierley echoed these concerns.
“We are now being hit by major shocks that are threatening both large and small businesses across the city. Jobs are being lost and existing support measures are insufficient,” Mr Brierley said.
“Government processes and decisions are delivering results. The result? Jobs are being lost and businesses are being damaged severely. Long-term investment by private firms now risks becoming pointless.”
Canberra Airport head of aviation Michael Thomson said today’s news was another example of the state of disaster that is the current aviation industry.
“The aviation industry has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the announcement from Singapore Airlines to continue the suspension of this service comes as no great surprise,” he said.
“We’ve enjoyed a successful partnership with Singapore Airlines since our first flight on 21 September 2016, and remain hopeful that this service will resume once the demand for international travel returns.
“Canberrans hold a lot of affection towards Singapore Airlines and we look forward to welcoming them back to Canberra at some time in the future.”
Business leaders are calling for a number of immediate actions.
“If we had a single Business Minister devoted full-time to the business of promoting business in the ACT, that would help,” Property Council of Australia (ACT division) Executive Director Adina Cirson said.
“One person leading a team of dedicated government officials focussed solely on assisting businesses, and available every day to talk to the business community. We don’t have that at present, and no party seems to be offering it.”
Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkin said “we need the next ACT Government to engage closely with industry
and community stakeholders to urgently address this problem”.
“We are competing globally for scarce private sector investment, and the ACT Government should be prioritising local job creation in the post-COVID economic recovery,” Mr Hopkin said.