Prime Minister Scott Morrison is optimistic 2021 will be better than 2020 as the government prepares to roll out a vaccine in the first quarter of next year.
He spoke via video link to NSW party faithful and key Liberal leaders at the party’s state council meeting on Nov 28, saying Australia was in an enviable position on both health and economic fronts.
Morrison said Australia had heavily invested in four vaccines – Novavax, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and a University of Queensland vaccine – which he said should roll out in the first quarter of 2021.
The prime minister said Australia’s debt situation was the envy of the world, even in the midst of coronavirus-induced devastation.
“Net debt as a share of the economy will peak at half of what it is in the United Kingdom, a third of what it is in the US and a quarter of what it is in Japan,” he said.
“When you look at the debt situation that we currently face, where we are sitting in a position which is still the envy of the rest of the world.”
Morrison said taking on huge debt as Liberals who are traditionally economically conservative had to be understood in context.
“What was the alternative other than to see Australian lives and livelihoods crushed?” Morrison said.
“None of us likes the fact that we have had to take on now such a heavy load.”
Speaking from isolation at The Lodge because of his recent trip to Japan, he told the council the economic impact of global lockdowns had made an economic crisis “45 times worse” than the Global Financial Crisis just over a decade ago.
The more than 55,000 coronavirus deaths in the UK is more than were lost during the blitz in the Second World War, the prime minister said.
“Our relative success here in Australia sometimes shields us from the sheer scale of the devastation that has occurred elsewhere around the world,” he said.
He commended state and territory governments for bipartisan efforts to meet the challenge, praising NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian in particular.
“But with all the other premiers, of course, there’s been disagreements here and that’s only natural. It’s the Federation.”
On Saturday, there were two locally-acquired virus cases recorded, both attributed to the Parafield cluster in Adelaide, now at 33 cases.
There were 10 cases reported in quarantining travellers – eight in NSW and one each in Queensland and the ACT.
Victoria has effectively eradicated the virus with a 29th consecutive day of no new cases and zero active cases. “COVID-normal” rules now apply, including the wearing of face masks in busy public areas.
Victoria will start taking international travellers again from December 7 under a “reset” hotel quarantine program.
Australia’s coronavirus death toll remains at 907.
Andi Yu in Canberra