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Companies are scrambling to cope with the fallout from US President Donald Trump’s executive order barring citizens from seven countries entering the US as Australian business leaders call on the Turnbull government to help clarify its impact.
Mr Trump’s executive order suspending all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days has led to chaotic scenes at US airports as airlines move to enforce the ban on travellers.
Mr Trump’s order bars citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US even if they hold valid visas or permanent residence permits, a move that has caught many companies off-guard.
The US technology industry, a major employer of foreign workers, has hit back at the order on immigration and some leaders have called it immoral and unAmerican.
Google urgently called back employees from overseas and other companies rushed to provide legal advice and assistance.
Travellers received a brief reprieve after two US judges temporarily blocked the administration from enforcing the order that would have required the removal from US airports of refugees, visa holders and legal US residents.
Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business Australia, has called on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Human Rights Commission to help clarify the ban on Muslim travellers to the US.
“At first glance, this will put employers and employees stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Mr Strong said.
“Employers are not allowed to ask where their employees are from but, if they are going to the US for business or a conference, they now have to ask, in case that staff member will be banned.
“At least having the 90 days gives some time reference, but the Australian government and even the American Embassy need to keep the public informed.”
James Pearson, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the order and its rapid implementation would cause uncertainty for Australian businesses, particularly those whose staff had dual nationalities and needed to visit the US.
“These businesses will be working overtime to see how they will be affected by the changes,” Mr Pearson said.
In the US, Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings called it “a sad week” and added: “It is time to link arms together to protect American values of freedom and opportunity.”
Apple chief executive Tim Cook sent a letter to employees saying Mr Trump’s order was “not a policy we support” and promised to help affected employees.
“We have reached out to the White House to explain the negative effect on our co-workers and our company,” Mr Cook added.
Elon Musk, the South African-born founder of Tesla and SpaceX who met recently with Mr Trump, said on Twitter: “The blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the country’s challenges.”
Television magnate and Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes, visiting the US, said Australia shouldn’t worry too much about Mr Trump because it was on the right side of its trade balance sheet and was too strong to be led into acting against its own interest.
“I really don’t care,” the West Australian Rich Lister told Fairfax Media in Los Angeles on Saturday before Mr Trump’s executive order was announced. “The more things change they more they stay the same.”
In Mr Trump’s first week as president he suggested a 20 per cent tariff on all Mexican goods, as well as on goods from some other countries, and threatened to rewrite trade deals.
Mr Trump’s administration this week also suggested intervening to stop China taking over territory in the South China Sea.
“I think we’ve got about a $60 billion credit with America against imports … so Mr Trump should fall over us to keep us,” Mr Stokes said.
“We’re pretty strong, we’ve got a good government and I don’t see us getting pulled into anything we don’t want to be involved in.”
Mr Stokes was visiting Los Angeles at the start of the annual G’Day USA week, which promoted Australian business, tourism and culture, and was attending the opening of Qantas’ $40 million hangar at Los Angeles International Airport.
“It’s great to see Qantas setting the standard because, at the end of the day, our entire future … is about the importation of capital, goods and tourism,” Mr Stokes said.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce echoed Mr Stokes’ ease about the Trump administration, saying he doubted the protectionist president would affect the airline’s business.
“We have a long tradition here, we’re very comfortable at doing business here, this is a big market for us: none of that’s going to change,” Mr Joyce said.
“I don’t think that’s going to change with this administration or any administration.”