Diverse economic heavy lifting the next step in COVID-19 recovery
The COVID-19 pandemic will remain with us for some time but the heavy lifting on economic recovery has well and truly started – that’s the message I’m taking out of significant State and Federal Government announcements in the past week.
On Sunday, the McGowan Government announced its official $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan, a broad and wide-ranging vision that was followed by a series of announcements that fill in some of the details on WA’s road to recovery. I think it’s safe to suggest we’ll be seeing quite a few more of these follow-up announcements in the lead-up to next year’s State Election.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison moved on from last Thursday’s mid-year budget update with confirmation on Monday that a COVID Co-ordination Commission, headed by former FMG boss Nev Power, would be moving into a new mode, shifting its focus to concentrate on creating jobs and stimulating the economy.
The Federal Government hasn’t tried to sugar coat the economic challenges posed by COIVID-19, nor the amount of deficit and debt the country is taking on trying to accelerate Australia’s economic recovery.
But the government was also right last week when it described Australia as being far better placed economically than a lot of developed countries. A more targeted and ongoing JobKeeper package, coupled with the rescoping of the COVID Co-ordination Commission to focus on JobMaker reforms, provide some good building blocks in the battle against high unemployment rates.
WA’s mining and resources industry was firmly in the spotlight on Thursday when Treasurer Josh Frydenberg revealed the extent to which it had buoyed Australia’s economy during the pandemic.
That said, it was pleasing to see the WA Recovery Plan largely looking elsewhere for opportunities to invigorate the State’s economy. You might remember that when I first wrote about Australia’s economic recovery in late April, I advocated for the retention of a National Cabinet (confirmed in late-May) and the need for diversification.
It’s not that mining and resources in WA will ever move to the backburner – indeed some of the recovery priorities, like boosting local manufacturing and building infrastructure, have direct tie-ins with that sector.
But mining is a known quantity when it comes to the WA economy. And the Recovery Plan is clearly modelled around identifying different avenues to unlock economic prosperity around the State.
So, the plan outlines commitments in priority streams for the areas and people most impacted by the pandemic – women and young children, and people living in regional areas or remote Aboriginal communities. It also focusses heavily on advancement of education and training, supporting small business and the housing construction industry, promoting local goods and produce, getting “shovel-ready” maintenance going, continued progress on the McGowan Government’s flagship METRONET project and investing in the tourism and culture and arts sectors, both of which have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.
The release of the plan was followed with details of a $116 million Regional Land Booster package, which will make discounted residential and industrial land available through DevelopmentWA.
Also announced were a Green Jobs Plan and a renewable energies technology boost.
The Green Jobs Plan includes $60.3 million over the next three years for projects that will protect the environment and create jobs. It is forecast the number of associated jobs will be more than a thousand.
Meanwhile, the renewable energies boost will comprise $66 million in total spending, including $44.5 million worth of infrastructure to be installed in the North-West (50 standalone power systems, nine battery energy storage systems and upgrades in remote Aboriginal communities).
Significantly, other aspects of the boost will zero in on areas of need identified in the Recovery Plan, such as smart, green power for schools and the installation of solar panels on social housing.
The unfortunate reality is that until a vaccine is developed or a cure found, COVID-19 will continue to impact all facets of our everyday lives, including our economic wellbeing.
But by taking the kinds of proactive steps outlined in the WA Recovery Plan and the JobKeeper extension, both State and Federal governments are working to limit that impact and put all of us in the best possible position for when the pandemic comes to an end.
Jennifer Kirk is an Associate Director in Cannings Purple’s Government Relations team and spent more than seven years in Canberra working for the Commonwealth Department of Finance, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Commonwealth Treasury. If you need help mapping out your government engagement, contact Jennifer.
Main photo: @BilljohnstonMLA on Twitter