New Grattan Institute book lays out Australia’s road to COVID-19 recovery

by John Daley and Danielle Wood Brendan Coates Stephen Duckett Tony Wood Marion Terrill Julie Sonnemann

To help Australia recover from the COVID-19 recession, the Federal Government should inject $70 billion to $90 billion in extra economic stimulus, including revamping and extending JobKeeper, according to a new Grattan Institute book.

The Recovery Book: what Australian governments should do now is a policy and strategy blueprint for federal, state, and territory governments, including for hospitals and health care, schools and universities, roads and trains, budgets and energy.

The book urges governments to prioritise ruthlessly. Long term reforms – assuming they’re desirable – such as tax, industrial relations, and skills policy changes should be put on hold while governments tackle a huge agenda of urgent policies over the next six months.

The Federal Government should announce extra economic stimulus – including spending on social housing and shovel-ready maintenance and infrastructure projects – in or before the October Budget, with the goal of getting hundreds of thousands of Australians back to work and dragging unemployment back down to about 5 per cent by the middle of 2022.

JobKeeper should be expanded to include university staff, casual workers, and temporary migrants, and extended beyond September for businesses that are still in strife.

The permanent rate of JobSeeker should be increased by at least $100 a week, and Commonwealth Rent Assistance should be increased by 40 per cent.

The Child Care Subsidy should be raised to 95 per cent of costs for low-income households, to cushion the shock to family budgets as parents start paying for childcare again, and to reduce financial barriers for parents taking on more paid work.

The Recovery Book recommends transport policy reforms to reflect likely changes to patterns of work and commuting in a ‘with-COVID’ world. These include congestion charging to help prevent roads in our capital cities clogging up, higher registration fees for larger cars than for smaller cars, more cycle lanes and paths, and a rethink of major project priorities.

On health, the book calls for governments to refine policies put in place over the past few months: expanding telehealth – telephone and video consultations with GPs and specialists – and using private hospitals better, especially to help clear the elective surgery backlog.

On schools, the book urges the Federal Government to fund a $1 billion, six-month tutoring blitz to help a million disadvantaged students recover learning lost during lockdowns.

The Recovery Book calls for a rapid return of rigorous scrutiny and oversight of government spending and decisions, after parliaments were suspended at the height of the COVID crisis. The Federal Government should establish the promised national integrity commission.

‘This is a massive agenda, almost all needed in the next six months,’ Grattan Institute CEO and lead author Dr John Daley said. ‘Our book maps Australia’s road to recovery from the biggest economic and social shock since World War II. After the recovery has been established, Australian governments will have the resources to focus properly on structural reforms to the economy and the budget.’

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