A better way

The restrictions placed on the economy in response to the coronavirus outbreak have had a significant effect on the Tasmanian and national economies.

The catch cry – “we are all in this together” – has held true in terms of the general public’s response to social isolation, and in many ways behaviours have changed in a way that has shown greater respect and acknowledgement. However, the effect on incomes has not been equally shared.

Wages and job numbers have fallen by around 10% since restrictions were first imposed. However, the effect has not been uniform over all sectors. While some sectors have borne the brunt of the restrictions, namely the accommodation and food service, and the arts and recreational services sectors, others have shown little adverse effect.

The public sector has been able to soldier on (particularly evident in a city such as Hobart with such a high public sector workforce), while many in the private sector have taken the fall.

However, what the restrictions have shown is the degree to which the two sectors are in fact interrelated and depend upon each other for the betterment of the entire community. Government aid, both state and federal, were essential to ensure the economy did not jump over the cliff, but improvement in employment levels and the health of the economy generally are utterly dependent upon the private sector getting back into activity.

One cannot really survive without the other. In the past this “obligatory” relationship has tended to be adversarial, and lead to resentment, punishment and in some instances stand off or stagnation. The past few weeks have shown that such an approach can be self-defeating, and that we really are “all in this together”.

One hopes that one outcome of this will be a recognition of this relationship, and the synergy that can come from a more collaborative approach to issues.

The property market has benefited greatly from the actions taken by government to stimulate the economy, through the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs, and the various state government support programs. The property market has shown stability throughout this period because of government intervention, and the support given to the landlord-tenant relationship has been welcomed.

We can only hope that as things begin to normalise that the relationship will remain supportive. Governments want the private sector to employ and to invest – the private sector wants the government to make quick decisions. Our financial institutions also play a pivotal role and we need those institutions to return to normal business to provide the important liquidity to allow the market to function.

In many ways the property sector can be a bellwether as it is in the frontline of this relationship. Planning laws, investment decisions, rental agreements and the like are bread and butter issues for the sector. We have in the past seen extraordinary and unnecessary delays in decisions, which have impacted on the availability of funds and even the capability and desire to invest.

There is a better way. We are keen to see the economy recover as quickly as possible, and for that to happen we need to work together to make it happen. We call on all parties to acknowledge that there is a new and collaborative way of doing things, and to ensure that the new normal is a co-operative and collaborative one.

Indexed number of payroll jobs and total wages, Tasmania and Australia

 

Change in payroll jobs since week ending 14 March by Industry, Tasmania