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Coronavirus Impacts on Economy

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Tags: COVID-19, Economy

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, Australia is at a very important crossroads, as is Tasmania. Over the next week or two we will be making some very large decisions about where we head in the near future, indeed until a vaccine becomes available for coronavirus, and that is likely to take another 18 months. It is an unknown number.

In this period we are balancing the social impacts of coronavirus disease. We are balancing the economic impacts of a whole nation, which has seen most industries grind to a halt in the manner of trading that they have done, so the impacts on us as a society are profound and we will never go back to the way we were.

While we are at this point of looking ahead about how to manage restrictions to the virus, the big pressure is on to kickstart the economy. Kickstarting the economy, as Josh Frydenberg has said, is about getting people back into employment immediately and every week is costing this country money. Every week with the wrong approach is costing this country lives. They are real people. The Treasurer has never explained how he puts a value on a life. Shame on him for beating that drum because it is a short-term expediency. Clearly the evidence is strong that we will win and win on every measure if we hold firm and hold strong on our commitment on this island to eliminating the virus.

What about beyond coronavirus? At some point we will come out of this space of severe restrictions and we will look at expanding the economy. We will look at stimulating jobs and we will look at building industries. Where we put our emphasis and where we put our money will give us a future which will provide us with a flourishing society, or it will take us back to a business-as usual-approach which is a trajectory to a future which is increasingly uninhabitable for every single person on the planet.

While children in Tasmania have been at home studying, two of them, Toby Thorp and Brian McEwan , amazing legends in Tasmania. They are only 18 years old and they have already represented us as a state overseas at the United Nations Framework for Climate Change Convention meetings around climate change and they have penned a paper for the Guardian explaining that while they have been at home, they have already had the experience of sacrificing their education to flatten the curve. They have already sacrificed to flatten the curve around global heating. They understand what a crisis looks like because they have been staring into the crisis of global heating their whole young lives. What they can see is the motivation for them to spend every moment of their working and living days looking at how we can collectively change our manner of operating as human beings so that we can create a world in which we can live. That is what they are focused on. They are a guiding light for us. They and so many other young people in Tasmania are doing the heavy lifting.

We are speaking with them when we put to the Premier and to the Government that the priority must be when we look to future economic recovery, it must be through the lens of climate of change. It must be through the lens of protecting nature. It must be through the lens of reducing income inequality. It must be through the lens of having sustainable, secure employment. These are the things we must focus on. It is disappointing that the Premier's Special Advisory Council lacked a scientist, that it lacks a person with expertise in climate change, it lacks a person with focus on these issues.

There are great people on the council but there is a huge gap. We hope that the Government will rectify this and widen the terms of reference for that advisory group that, at the moment, are far too narrowly focused. We need to look beyond economic growth. We need to look at how we manage natural disasters, how we bring about healthy environments and ecosystems and how we are able to produce food and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This the future we must plan for and this is where we need to put all of our efforts for economic recovery.

It is a joy, it is a boon. There are amazing opportunities available for us as a state as we come out of the coronavirus epidemic to look at the changes that we can bring to bear as a state to position us for a future and our children, like Brian and Toby and all the other children who are working in this space. We can work with them for their future and provide them one which has hope, hope through action on addressing the issues of inequality and on focusing our understanding on the importance of the biodiversity of this beautiful island Tasmania.