Corona
Corona

Biggest lesson the pandemic has taught us

ON THIS holiest of weekends, with the pandemic front and centre of everything we touch, there is certain to be debate around family dinner tables about globalisation and how as Australians we need to much more self-sufficient.

Our over-reliance on China is criminal. When a major global event happens again - and it will - we need to be much more prepared to deal with any crisis, using our own innovation and manufacturing skills.

If we ever needed proof that coronavirus will spark a revolution -a line in the sand - on the way we do business as a society, take a look at what's happening right now in Queensland.

In the space of just eight weeks, companies have transitioned themselves from making masks for snorers to making masks for nurses. Rum factories are making hand sanitiser. We're building our own fridges to help a fishing industry cut off from its biggest markets.

Banyo-based engineers Triple Eight are swapping race car manufacture for ventilators.

It's said that necessity is the mother of all invention and that's certainly the case as the manufacturing sector aims up during this time of crisis. Where was this 20 years ago?

Complementing that refreshing attitude to innovation, there's also a community revolution going on in the suburbs.

 

Treasurer Jackie Trad (front) with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
Treasurer Jackie Trad (front) with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

 

It sets Queenslanders apart. We see it during State of Origin. We look after our own. It particularly applies to battlers and those doing it tough.

The Care Army is a great example. Over 20,000 people registered within 72 hours to be part of the Care Army, each assigned an elderly person who may be lonely and in need of human connection.

Then there's those who are simply doing it tough because they've lost their job and can't pay fines or utility bills.

Right at the outset of this crisis, Treasurer Jackie Trad told her department that there'd be a moratorium on chasing people who could not pay fines through the SPER program.

She told Treasury officials that there was no way this government would hound people in hardship during this stressful period.

Ms Trad effectively stood down those working in the debt collection industry and they were re-purposed to work for the government call centres, which needed 800 extra employees.

The Treasurer also adopted a new call centre portal at a cost of $1 million, compared to the $142 million that had been originally quoted. The ROI on that new portal was achieved within 13 days.

Now those familiar with this column will know that Ms Trad is not my favourite politician. But deferring SPER payments until after we get through this is smart and compassionate.

 

 

At a time when domestic violence is escalating and financial pressures are hurting every family, removing state-run debt collectors from pursuing people at their most vulnerable shows initiative and proactivity.

To then redeploy these SPER debt collectors to help provide information to Queenslanders on how they can access government assistance is again clever.

That's the sort of political decision-making that must be applauded. God knows the State Labor Government has made enough poor policy decisions, so it's appropriate to acknowledge it when it gets it right.

Now to the elephant in the room - China. What this pandemic has unquestionably revealed is that the demise of our manufacturing industry over the past half century places us in an untenable position in a time of global meltdown.

In the future, Australians will have to take a different mindset to the way we purchase goods, particularly manufacturing products.

Do you buy the cheaper Chinese made product or pay extra for the Aussie version, thereby quarantining the local economy and jobs?

It will take a seismic, premeditated, concerted effort by Australians to go down that path. There will be short term pain for long term gain.

 

 

But the unprecedented stimulus rescue packages deployed by the Commonwealth and State Governments because of coronavirus are once in a lifetime handouts, aimed at stopping another Great Depression.

We can't do that every decade. It will send us broke and Paul Keating's prophecy will ring true and we will indeed become a Banana Republic.

So the answer is simple. It's time to go back to basics. Innovate like we've never done before. Invent new stuff like our lives depend upon it. Build a smarter, more innovative country. Buy Australian, support Australian.

We need to future-proof ourselves from economic oblivion, led by government and the private sector.

We must never fully expose ourselves to the vagaries of war, pandemic or a natural disaster that kills millions.

There is a mood in Australia to embrace a new World Order. If China wants to take us on with trade sanctions, so be it. Others will buy our iron ore, coal and pigs.

As Aussies, we have an indomitable spirit, built off the back of our ANZAC heroics. Once this is all over, we need to reclaim our manufacturing industry and change the way we do business on the global stage.

We should never put ourselves in this position again.

 

 

Originally published as Biggest lesson the pandemic has taught us


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