Pandemic Not a ‘Cover’ to Establish ‘Funky’ State-Centred Economy: Aussie PM to World Economic Forum

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia. Contact him on
January 21, 2022Updated: January 21, 2022

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told global business leaders that his government did not view the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to create a more “state-centred” economy but instead had backed a more sustainable business-led recovery.

In a speech to the Davos Agenda 2022 virtual summit hosted by the World Economic Forum, Morrison laid out Australia’s way through the global fallout from the pandemic and its approach to supporting economic recovery and resilience over the next decade.

“We did not see a government-centered recovery sustaining into the future,” he said on Jan. 21. “There was certainly a role for government, but the role for the government was to ensure that we would have a sustainable business-led recovery.

“We knew we were dealing with a public health crisis, albeit one with profound economic and social consequences.

“We never saw it as cover for some sort of funky experiment to transform our economic system. We haven’t seen this as some long-term invitation for the return of—or the establishment of—some state-centered economy,” Morrison said.

This “market-oriented” approach had served Australia well for decades, he noted, adding that prior to the COVID-recession, the country had not been in a recession for 28 and a half years.

Five Forces Shaping the World

The prime minister also outlined what he saw as the five major “forces” shaping political, economic, and technological changes in a post-pandemic world.

These include an acceleration of a digital economy that saw the need to align the digital and physical worlds. Secondly, he said there was a heightened demand for skills and research talent, more adaptable workplaces, and closer collaboration between researchers and the business world.

Meanwhile, a sharper geopolitical competition has emerged. Morrison said this was most notably playing out in the Indo-Pacific with China, though he did not name the country.

Chinese aircraft carrier
China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing with other ships holds a “live combat drill” in the East China Sea, on April 23, 2018, a show of force by Beijing’s burgeoning navy in disputed waters that have riled neighbors. (AFP via Getty Images)

“We live in what is an increasingly fragmented and contested world, particularly here in the Indo-Pacific, which has become the world’s strategic center of gravity,” Morrison said.

“The challenges we face are many. There are tensions over territorial claims. There is rapid military modernisation. There’s foreign interference appearing in nations right across the Indo-Pacific and here in Australia.

“There’s malicious cyber threats and attacks that are taking place; disinformation, economic coercion. This is a highly contested space where we’re seeing much gray zone tactics being employed throughout the region intended to seek to coerce and intimidate.

“Meeting these challenges demands cooperation and common purpose amongst those who believe in a world order that favours freedom and the rule of law, that has been the basis for the world’s prosperity since the Second World War,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier leaves Portsmouth Naval Base on the south coast of England on May 1, 2021. The carrier will take part in exercises off Scotland before heading to the Indo-Pacific region for her first operational deployment. (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

The fourth force he outlined were the pressures on the global supply chain and open trade caused by an era of “hyper globalisation” that have seen governments and companies “having to reassess their rules” and “their assumptions.”

The last force was the drive to decarbonise the global economy while maintaining affordable and reliable energy for customers and businesses.

Morrison called on world leaders to pursue fast economic recovery, reminiscent of what played out in the 80s and the 90s, and not the “prolonged, sluggish recovery” that followed the GFC in the 2010s.

This was vital, he said, because the pandemic had “accentuate[d] new divides” between countries and industries that have suffered more—such as tourism, travel, and business events—and those that had been able to “insulate” from the worst impacts—such as logistics, health, and IT.

“A fast recovery must be our shared economic mission. A recovery that’s about creating jobs, building wealth, and prosperity, and that narrows the divides in our communities. Because shared prosperity is always the foundation for a strong and stable democracy and global security,” he said.