For the first time in a generation Australia’s expat community is starting to come home. And why wouldn’t they come home? We are a country with low COVID-19 infection and death rates and hidden potential. We have an opportunity, albeit one difficult to realise, that has not been available to Australia for a long time. Our rivals in education and tourism such as the UK, Europe and the US are crippled. Few overseas students would choose to go to those areas and study. And although tourism is very restricted, our rival tourist destinations are also crippled.
As well, in commercial activities, a lot of enterprises are experiencing the high risks of operating in so many countries outside of Australia and New Zealand. Many in our expat community, having bagged Australia for years, now recognise the potential and they are very willing to be quarantined for 14 days so that they can exercise their rights of Australian citizenship. Home has never felt so good. Right now our big state governments are concentrating trying to maintain low infection rates with very cautious easing. Despite all the economic and market bravado, our Australian economy is unlikely to quickly snap back to where it was.
The people on the front line of the financial crisis, the banks, have some $160 billion in loans that are falling behind, led by the employment powerhouse of small business. If we are not careful, the insecure bank veneer holding up vast areas of the employment-generating small business sector will start to crumble. In the US they expect considerable damage in the small and medium business sector to emerge next month and if the clamps remain until September vast areas of American small business will be destroyed. And with that destruction will come an unemployment problem even greater than the current one.
Australia is obviously better off but we face the same dangers and the underlying employment situation is not that different because it is being masked by poor real unemployment statistics from the ABS. Of course, there are many in the community who are still earning last year’s income so their basic lifestyles are being maintained. That segment of the community is spearheaded by the public servants in Canberra. That’s why it was horrific to see Treasury people apparently leaking the idea to the media that JobKeeper might be cut back before September 30. There can be minor modifications and an obvious area of weakness handing lower paid people a big pay rise via JobKeeper.
But any basic change will bring down the bank-supported veneer that it is holding up so many of our businesses. It is likely that in a reduced form, JobKeeper will be required after September 30. Treasury people should be sent to Sydney and Melbourne to learn about the world outside Canberra. In fairness Treasury people see first-hand the sea of monumental deficits. If we are going to bring these deficits under control an important step is to devise a safe system to restore and lift the global overseas student market. The university system not only generates strong export and domestic revenue but there is a huge army of small enterprises that support the campuses.
Obviously we need strong safety restrictions but we can use the current quarantine system or, perhaps, we can test arrivals for COVID-19 so the quarantine is much shorter. And we can use masks at universities to make them safer. It’s a small price to price to pay to restore this important part of our prosperity. And on the subject of masks, at the moment working or living in high-rise towers is extremely inefficient and time-consuming because of the restrictions on the number of people who can use the lift. Masks in that area will help, perhaps supported by regular temperature checks.
Obviously tourism is harder but again is it possible to test tourists as part of a total arrival testing service to restrict the quarantine period? Again we must leave it to the experts but we have the chance of generating much needed wealth given these huge deficits. Our prime minister is recognised internationally as one of the best in the world and we are fortunate to have him as our leader. He is trying to snap the Australian economy back but too much damage has been done and the flower of confidence has been crushed. We need to find a way to restore those great engine rooms of prosperity: education and tourism.
Given the states differing views, it is no easy task to establish a national policy. But our country has been presented with an opportunity not seen for a generation. For health reasons it’s not an easy opportunity to grasp and there are many genuine hazards in attempting to take advantage. But it is there and it won’t be there for ever.
- giving thanks that God is already preparing us for our recovery as a nation by causing to return home those talented Australians who left our shores because of limited opportunity here to use their talent.
- that our Governments and business will recognise the skills and expertise of those returning home and find places for them to excel in serving our nation in its recovery from the crippling effects of the Covid 19 lockdowns.
- that every Australian will play their role in contributing to the economic recovery that is now facing Australia.
Source: Financial Commentator Robert Gottliebsen