The job losses incurred in Australia can be summed up in a single word: devastating. Of the ten worst affected electorates, four are in NSW. Only Queensland is in more difficulty due to their reliance on tourism. Not only have livelihoods been destroyed by COVID-19 but entire industries have been threatened perhaps most notably the Australian film and entertainment industry along with many small businesses and startups. Rural and regional Australia has been hit hardest and is forecast to take the longest to recover. The question is increasingly “How to rebuild and reopen Australia?”.
Although the Northern Beaches has been more fortunate than parts of Australia, the reality is that we have lost 6.9% of jobs in Mackellar between the 14th of March and the 18th of April. To lose so many jobs in such a short period of time will leave an indelible mark in the psyche of our nation. It is one of those unusual times in history where everyone I speak to has either been affected themselves or knows someone that has.
The time for rebuilding Australia and opening up our economy is an imperative. But opening up smarter will distinguish the countries that recover sustainably without a second wave and those that have to return to lock-down. It has been deeply inspiring to hear the stories of individual Australians reaching out to help each other even complete strangers.
To lose so many jobs in such a short period of time will leave an indelible mark in the psyche of our nation.
Whilst the Federal Government continues to work at a national level there is a critical role for both State and Local levels of government in the recovery process. Both of these levels have the opportunity to strategically reopen sectors which will be low risk in causing additional COVID-19 cases. The increased localisation of these two levels of government gives them the capacity to respond to more granular detail in a way that the Federal Government either cannot or simply does not have the resources to engage with.
The NSW State Government has done a good job in managing COVID-19 however should begin to target industries to reopen which inherently require low levels of interaction between individuals. The financial services industry, the tech sector, research institutes, academia, startup hubs and some manufacturing can all be targeted to reopen. There has been far too much focus in both government and the media on opening pubs, clubs and restaurants rather than taking a big picture approach and recognising that there are other critical areas of the economy. Many of the industries listed above can open today with little to no risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. It is also critical to recognise that the sooner people get back to business-as-usual normal spending patterns will resume which will be vital for SMEs coming out of hibernation or struggling with low liquidity levels and servicing debt.
Individual Australians are doing a lot of heavy lifting to help their friends and family whilst trying to work in the most efficient way possible given the situation. Federal Government cannot do it alone in partnering with these people but requires both State and Local Government to look at ways to creatively reopen industries which are low risk. For those industries which cannot be reopened soon the Federal Government seeks continued cooperation to work with States in ensuring those employed in that industry are given support.
Whilst COVID-19 is a tragedy it has also been encouraging to see Australia come together in a time of need and outperform the rest of the world in lowering cases and minimising the economic impact. We have been able to do this because of our ability to help one another and maintain order in a time of chaos. Australians have shown as they have throughout history that during adversity we can rise above the fray by acting selflessly and with integrity.
Jason Falinski MP is the Federal Member for Mackellar.