Covid19 is likely to continue as a major domestic and international disruptor in 2021.
While covid19 vaccines give some hope, they may be no panacea. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been remarkably good at preventing serious illness.
However, their trials only tracked how many vaccinated people became sick, leaving open the possibility that some vaccinated people could become infected without developing symptoms and then silently transmit the virus.
Taiwan has adopted the world’s best practice to manage the pandemic. Like Australia, it is an island nation with 23 million people that can regulate people travelling into the country. Unlike Australia, its stringent testing and quarantine system for those entering the country, which emphasises support for those quarantined, has seen the grand total of “one” community transmission since mid-April 2020, and a total of only 800 cases.
Taiwanese have continued to live their lives largely as normal, without the lockdowns and economic hardships. Taiwan’s economy grew 3.9 per cent in the third quarter and 3.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Until Australia learns from Taiwan and invests in highly responsive pandemic health technologies and procedures, our states are likely to go on imposing intermittent lockdowns and border closures whenever an outbreak occurs, with damaging social and economic consequences.
The pandemic and China’s belligerence have fundamentally changed world economics as countries and corporations realise the vulnerability of global supply chains. Now there are calls for the rebuilding of Australia’s manufacturing industries, after 50 years of dismantling them. However, as a great number of manufacturing companies are foreign owned, they are not interested in nation building for Australia.
Particularly, there have been calls for an Australian pharmaceutical industry to produce vaccines, medical equipment and some drugs. Australia used to have such a company, but the federal government’s commitment to privatisation saw the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory (CSL) sold. It is now American owned.
Regardless, the first key policy for building industries is that federal and state governments commit to buying first from Australian-owned companies. Special incentives are needed for building a basic pharmaceutical industry.
The NCC’s white paper, Manufacturing: Double Production by 2035, sets out a comprehensive policy agenda.
As the United States weakens and Beijing strengthens, Australia needs to achieve greater economic self-reliance.
When/if the Federal Government cuts the JobKeeper program, and if states impose periodic border closures and lockdowns, then business closures are likely to hit the economy hard in 2021. Later in the year, or in early 2022, a federal election is likely.
The presidency of Joe Biden in the U.S., with Democrat control of both the House and Senate, will seriously impact the U.S. and the world.
His plan to manage the huge and growing covid19 pandemic is to adopt the policies of Britain, France and Spain. Yet covid19 is rife in these countries. When that fails, if America resorts to extended lockdowns, it will cause huge economic damage to the U.S. and the global economy. Band-aid economic stimulus packages will only work for a limited time.
Biden’s radical green-energy policy, starting with signing the Paris Climate Accord, will damage American energy self-reliance.
His radical social policies are extensive, including support for the Equality Bill, which will cause deep social divisions in America. Comparable to Australia’s Sex Discrimination Act, it gives legal protection to a person’s fluid gender identity.
While the centre of international conflict has shifted to the Pacific, Biden’s foreign affairs team is full of old Euro-centrics. In foreign policy circles, some are saying to expect Obama 2.0 – more talk and little action, which will allow China to aggressively extend its global influence.
With the U.S. in political turmoil, Beijing is already tightening its grip on Hong Kong with the arrest of many pro-democracy activists.
Domestically, there is an unprecedented threat to our freedoms from Victoria’s anti-conversion therapy Bill, which is expected to pass with little opposition from the Liberals and Nationals in February.
The Bill will criminalise any speech or comment that can be construed as “inducing” a person not to express their fluid gender identity. Parents wanting to confirm their child’s biological reality, teachers affirming male and female sex in biology classes, women defending their sex-based rights in sport and in their private spaces, ministers of religion teaching moral principles about sexuality, and journalists questioning puberty blockers for children could all face criminal charges with heavy fines and prison sentences.
If this legislation passes, then the Federal Government must be persuaded to pass overriding legislation to defend the basic freedoms that are the foundation of a tolerant democracy.
In 2021, the work of the NCC will be more important than ever.
Patrick J. Byrne is national president of the National Civil Council.