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Australia faces ‘lost decade’ as a ‘hermit nation’ if it doesn’t reopen soon: report

Australians face a “lost decade” inside a “hermit nation” left far behind the rest of the world if the country doesn't open up soon.

That’s according to a report prepared by leading figures from business, law, arts and academia that will be launched on Friday afternoon by former NSW Premier and current HammondCare Chief Executive Mike Baird.

The report urges Australia’s leaders to approach the task of opening international borders with as much urgency as was shown when the country suppressed and eliminated local COVID-19 transmission.

“If Australia is not ready to reopen effectively when the world recovers from the worst of the pandemic, we face enormous dislocation socially and prolonged pain economically,“ the report says.

“We need to move from the anxiety of the last year to a more confident and outward looking future.

“If we do not, it is no exaggeration to say that young people, in particular, face a lost decade.”

The report entitled “A Roadmap to Reopening” will be submitted to the NSW government and the authors hope it will be submitted to national cabinet for consideration.

The authors include law firm Herbert Smith Freehills partner Mark Rigotti, University of Sydney school of architecture dean Robyn Dowling, Sydney Symphony Orchestra chief executive Emma Dunch and PricewaterhouseCoopers chief executive Tom Seymour.

Settlement Services International chief executive Violet Roumeliotis and Law Council Australia chief executive Michael Tidball also contributed to the report.

Mr Rigotti, who chaired the Sydney University task force that put the report together, said Australia had “won the war” by containing COVID-19 but it now needs to “win the peace” as well.

Mr Rigotti even invoked North Korea’s reputation as a “hermit nation” in relation to Australia’s hardline stance.

“Safe re-engagement requires industry and place-specific strategies anchored in public health principles – by guiding by the objective of reopening our society – not reverting into a hermit nation,” Mr Rigotti said in a statement.

The report proposes a three-pronged approach to reopening. It would require widespread and rapid vaccination, rigorous testing of overseas arrivals at the border, and the development of a quarantine system that takes into account the specific needs of different industries.

The university's Sydney Policy Lab presented a poll to coincide with the report’s release. The poll found:

  • 55 percent of respondents support travel between countries where people are fully vaccinated and COVID-19 is under control (20 percent oppose).
  • 54 percent support entry of international students where they are fully vaccinated and subject to university-provided quarantine (24 percent oppose).
  • 53 percent support entry and quarantine of creative workers where they are fully vaccinated and involved in major projects (22 percent oppose).
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One comment

  1. This report appears to be ignoring the elephant in the room, which is of course that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic where thousands of people a day are dying.
    When the Government sets up appropriate quarantining facilities, perhaps then we can talk about “opening up”. At the moment, the risk of covid-affected returning travelers to big cities is far too great.
    As a Victorian, as well as an immunocompromised person, who did the hard yards with one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, I DO NOT want to see my state or my country have to go through that again!
    If we push too hard for opening up too early, it could very well lead to another big outbreak and deaths of our loved ones.
    Push for Morrison to create purpose built quarantine facilities and then we can talk “opening up”.

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