Scott Morrison says the economic impact of the coronavirus in Australia could be worse than the GFC

  • Speaking at the Australian Financial Review’s Business Summit, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak in Australia could be worse than the one wrought by the global financial crisis.
  • He said the hit to the economy “would be greater if coronavirus were to have a significant impact on the health of our workforce”.
  • Without giving specific policy details, Morrison also outlined the principles underpinning the government’s expected stimulus effort to fight to downturn.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australia may have dodged the very worst of the global financial crisis back in 2008, but Scott Morrison seems to think the coronavirus might be the one to finally get us.

Speaking at the Australian Financial Review’s Business Summit this morning, the prime minister warned the economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak are “potentially greater than the global financial crisis for Australia”.

“The epicentre of the crisis is much closer to home,” he said in his opening address to the summit. “The impacts [of the GFC] were centred on the North Atlantic and back then China was in a position to cushion the blow.”

Despite the fact the government has all but abandoned its long-promised surplus in the face of the growing crisis, Morrison argued the efforts to restore “structural integrity” to the budget put Australia in as good a place as it can be as it hurtles towards a crisis point.

“We resisted repeated calls for cash splurges as part of our unwavering plan to rebuild our fiscal buffers so we could respond when it is truly needed, which is now,” Morrison said. “This is what we have been preparing for.”

“Australia will pass this test and emerge stronger on the other side”.

Morrison’s address comes as the Australian stock market reflects a growing panic amid the coronavirus outbreak and a plummeting oil price taking a mighty sledgehammer to the economy’s already wobbly knees. This morning, the ASX fell nearly 4% in ten minutes, following a 7.33% fall on Monday, as investors prepare for what could be a bear market, characterised by a 20% fall or more.

The question now turns to what the government’s fiscal response to the crisis might look like. Morrison did not provide specifics on the stimulus package expected to be announced this week, but he did outline the “principles” on which it will operate.

Morrison says the measures will be temporary and not “baked into” the bottom line for years to come, and they must have a defined exit strategy to ensure they are not.

“Our objective is this: to keep people in jobs, keep businesses in business and ensure we bounce back stronger on the other side,” Morrison said.