Scott Morrison says he wants to get the economy moving again, but warns it may take five years to recover

Scott Morrison wants to get the Australian economy firing again. (James D. Morgan, Getty Images)
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned economic recovery may take between three to five years in an address to the National Press Club on Tuesday.
  • Morrison said it was important to get the economy reopened as soon as possible to get 850,000 people back to work.
  • In his address, he laid out the broad policy objectives his government is working towards, with changes to industrial relations central to his agenda.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The Prime Minister has told Australia he wants to “fire the starters’ gun on the economy” in a speech outlining his vision for recovery.

While boasting of the fact Australia is “weathering the storm better than many and better than most”, Scott Morrison lamented the fact “millions of Australians” are now relying on a recovery.

“The reopening of our economy must be followed by a concerted effort to create momentum and to rebuild confidence. This will provide the platform then to reset our economy for growth over the next three to five years as Australia – and the world – emerges from this crisis,” he told the National Press Club on Tuesday, noting jobs remained the country’s number one priority.

While emphasising the necessity of the government’s JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs, Morrison mixed metaphors as he reminded the country they were only temporary.

“At some point, you’ve got to get your economy out of ICU. You’ve got to get it off the medication before it becomes too accustomed to it,” he said, suggesting more than 850,000 jobs would be “ultimately restored” by reopening.

“We must enable our businesses to earn Australia’s way out of this crisis. And that means focusing on the things that can make their businesses go faster.”

The PM revealed a long list of priorities including an overhaul of skills and education sectors, deregulation, and a focus on energy and resources. Chief amongst them, however, remains industrial relations, from changing the award system to reforms for casual and fixed-term employees as part of its ‘JobMaker’ reforms.

“I have been genuinely heartened by the constructive approach of employees and employers and business groups and unions working together in the ACTU with the government through this crisis to find practical solutions to keeping Australians in jobs,” he said.

However while Morrison said repeatedly his government’s aim is to keep those groups working productively together, he couldn’t resist a jab at the CFMMEU – which has long been at loggerheads with his government over worker rights – for what he called “repugnant” behaviour.

He also suggested higher federal taxes may be required to pay back the cost of expanded government programs.

With COVID-19 having created the “most challenging domestic and global economic environment we have faced outside of wartime”, the Coalition said its focus remained on improving the competitiveness of businesses to grow the economy

“We will remain in Australia an outward-looking, open and sovereign trading economy. We will not retreat into the downward spiral of protectionism. To the contrary. We will be a part of global supply chains that can deliver the prosperity we rely on to create jobs, support incomes and build businesses,” he said.

Appearing to make a subtle jab at recent tensions with China, which has been riled by Australia’s support of an independent coronavirus investigation with recent tariffs on Australian barley understood to have been imposed in response.

“While a trading nation, we will never trade away our values or our future for short-term gain. With trade alliances and other partners, we will work to establish and maintain the balance needed for peace and stability in our region upon which everyone’s prosperity depends,” he said.

With Chinese state media describing Australia as “the gum on the shoe of China”, and threatening to boycott Australian exports, high tensions could pose a bigger risk to Australia’s economic recovery than the government would like to admit.