Bunnings, Officeworks offer to host COVID-19 vaccine hubs as big business push to join rollout

Australia's big business could offer incentives in an effort to increase uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, with the owner of Bunnings and Officeworks also putting its sites forward to host mass vaccine hubs in future.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House. Source: AAP

Australia's corporate leaders have offered to lend their support to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to encourage more people to get the jab. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg met with corporate leaders from Coles, Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, Wesfarmers, Virgin and Qantas virtually on Wednesday to discuss a plan to boost vaccination numbers. 

The meeting saw Wesfarmers, the owner of Bunnings and Officeworks, offer its sites as possible destinations for mass vaccination hubs, with other businesses also on board.

Possible vaccine incentives were also raised, with airlines flagging the potential of offering frequent flyer points to people who receive their jabs.  

In the United States, businesses and states have already been offering bonuses such as free beer, lotteries and even marijuana in an effort to increase vaccine uptake. 

Mr Frydenberg said businesses had indicated their support for similar incentive measures.

"I mean, airlines, free frequent flyer points and other benefits for example. I think it is more than a snag at Bunnings that we are talking about as our potential opportunity for incentives," he told reporters. 

"If you look abroad, and America is a good example, they have been actively engaging the business community in the rollout." 

Qantas has already announced it would offer free frequent flyer points to those who have had a vaccine and intends to offer 10 prizes of free travel and accommodation for a year. 

Other ideas flagged in the meeting include the possibility for staff of to be vaccinated in the workplace. 

Companies at the meeting also agreed to write to workers stressing the importance of being vaccinated.

Mr Frydenberg has indicated expanding businesses involvement in the rollout will be dependent on increasing Pfizer supplies, which are expected to be bolstered from September to October. 

"As more supply comes on board, businesses can play a greater role," he said.

But Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers has described the business round table as an "elaborate blame shifting" exercise designed to distract from the pace of the vaccine rollout. 

"The problem wasn't a lack of business input. The problem is a lack of vaccines, of quarantine and leadership," he told reporters.  

"No amount of state photo opportunities with CEOs or generals can make up for the debacle he has made of this vaccine rollout."

Mr Frydenberg rejected suggestions the government had dragged its feet on involving big business in the vaccine rollout.  

"It has been subject to getting more supply online," he said. "We are rolling out the vaccine as fast as we can."

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Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said businesses who already offer staff flu jabs could expand their services to coronavirus vaccines.

"We believe business can play a huge role in supercharging the vaccine when the supply arrives," she said.

"Let's use the resources of corporate Australia and institutions like universities, who are very big institutions, to get this done as fast as we can."

Australian Industry Group boss Innes Willox said airports, shopping centres, industrial parks, clubs and pubs were vaccination site options.

But he wants legal protections for businesses, similar to indemnities offered to doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

"Workers' compensation does not provide appropriate or affordable protections for businesses against adverse vaccine reactions," Mr Willox said.

With AAP

Published 7 July 2021 at 7:42am, updated 7 July 2021 at 4:12pm